Indian Navy awaits government nod to escort ships to Somalia

August 28th, 2008 - 4:13 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 28 (IANS) The Indian Navy is awaiting the government’s nod to provide escort to ships carrying life-saving assistance to Somalia under the aegis of the United Nations, a senior naval official said.“The navy’s request to protect the UN shipments from pirates is with the government. The Indian Navy is ready and keen to provide its assistance in the UN food programme as it will enhance our credentials as a professional navy in the region,” the senior navy official told IANS Thursday.

The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) is responding to urgent humanitarian needs in Somalia. Over 2.4 million Somalis rely on food aid, of which 80 percent arrives by sea.

Food supplies are urgently needed in Somalia but danger posed by pirates has made delivery difficult by land and sea routes. In July the WFP had appealed to naval powers to help protect its ships carrying life-saving assistance from pirate attacks, saying that as many as two million Somalis could go hungry without this essential help.

“We cannot claim to be a power with global impact if we do not take up responsibilities. We are ready to protect the ships passing through the Mozambique Channel (between Madagascar and South east Africa) which is plagued by piracy,” the official added.

To the north of Madagascar lies Somalia, whose coastline has been identified by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) as the area with the highest piracy risk in the world. For India, monitoring the waters off Africa’s east coast is an essential part of security of energy supplies through the Indian Ocean.

While pirates have launched 31 attacks on vessels off Somalia’s eastern and northern coasts so far this year, to date no escorted WFP ships have been targeted. France, Denmark and the Netherlands have provided naval escorts over the last eight months.

Somalia has been beset by instability and insecurity for almost 20 years and is further affected by the recurring drought and increasing world food prices.

“We are ready to work under the UN flag and we need not worry about our safety as the UN charter does not forbid use of force in self-defence,” the official said.

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