Indian Navy prods other naval powers into swift action

November 20th, 2008 - 3:58 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Nov 20 (IANS) The sinking of a pirate ship by the Indian Navy has prodded others, including powerful military nations, into announcing swift and coordinated action in the Gulf of Aden.Nato military chiefs met in Brussels Wednesday to discuss anti-piracy strategy after the International Maritime Bureau described the situation as “out of control.”

Nato countries were said to be considering a “plethora of proposals” to deal with the problem, but it wasn’t immediately clear if they discussed India’s call - made last week - for a United Nations peacekeeping force under a unified command to be deployed in the Gulf of Aden.

Among proposals being considered is one by Russia for land operations against the bases of Somali pirates.

Russian ambassador Dmitry Rogozin said naval action alone was not enough to deter piracy, adding: “It is up to Nato, the EU and other major stakeholders to conduct not a sea operation, but in fact a land coastal operation to eradicate the bases of pirates on the ground.”

And with two Britons among the crew of seized Saudi oil tanker Sirius Star, the British government too promised action.

British Foreign Minister David Miliband said the Royal Navy was coordinating the European response to the hijack from its warship in the region, HMS Cumberland.

Saudi Arabia also pledged to join the fight, along with new pledges of ships from Sweden and South Korea.

“The Royal Navy is co-ordinating the European response as well as contributing to the international mission there. Obviously, the problem of piracy around Somalia is a grave danger to the stability in the region,” said Miliband.

“It is important that the whole world recognises that it is a threat to trade and prosperity,” he said.

Sweden announced it would be sending two warships to join the European Union’s antipiracy flotilla deployed in the dangerous waters off the Somali coast. Britain is about to assume command of the flotilla.

And the Arab League convened an emergency meeting in Cairo to discuss how best to co-operate to deal with the growing piracy issue.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: “We have ensured that the Navy has the means and the authority to deter and disrupt acts of piracy and we are introducing legislation to strengthen powers for the armed forces to detain ships and arrest suspects.”

As two more vessels were seized by pirates Wednesday, Noel Choong, head of the piracy reporting centre at the IMB in Kuala Lumpur, said: “The situation is already out of control. With no strong deterrent, low risk to the pirates and high returns, the attacks will continue.”

But a senior British Navy officer warned no amount of coalition forces would be sufficient to secure the 2.5 million sq nautical miles of the Gulf of Aden, let alone the Indian Ocean waters where the supertanker was seized.

“The pirates will go somewhere we are not,” said Commodore Keith Winstanley, deputy commander of the Combined Maritime Forces in the Middle East.

“If we patrol the Gulf of Aden then they will go to Mogadishu. If we go to Mogadishu, they will go to the Gulf of Aden.”

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