Sinking pirate vessel was within law: Navy chief

December 2nd, 2008 - 6:34 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 2 (IANS) The sinking of a pirate craft in the Gulf of Aden by the stealth frigate INS Tabar last month was not “wrong” and it was well “within law”, Indian Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta said Tuesday.INS Tabar, which has been patrolling the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden since Nov 2, sunk a pirate craft in a retaliatory fire Nov 18. The incident earned accolades for the navy globally but a Thailand-based company later said the vessel belonged to it and was hijacked by the sea bandits.

“There is nothing the Indian Navy has done wrong. It is well within law,” Mehta told reporters here in an annual media interaction ahead of the Navy Day.

“INS Tabar has done some commendable job. The Thai trawler was a pirated trawler. And for all practical purpose if somebody fires at a man of war, you have to retaliate.”

“According to our investigation later on, we found that the ship was operating in the high seas for a very long time. What cargo was it carrying from Yemen to Oman? If it was low on fuel, then how the fireball was so bright? There had to be the ammunition onboard,” Mehta added.

The Gulf of Aden, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, has witnessed a spike in the acts of piracy this year. Since the International Maritime Organisation started compiling data, some 440 acts of piracy and armed robbery have taken place off the coast of Somalia, of which 120 have been reported this year.

As many as 35 ships have been seized this year and more than 600 seafarers have been kidnapped for ransom. As of now, more than a dozen ships and 280 seafarers are being held hostage in Somalia by these pirates.

“The Indian government’s official stand is clear - let us have a UN flag under which we can operate. Currently the Indian Navy is working in a loosely coordinated manner. We are in constant touch with other countries on the issue,” Mehta added.

The Gulf of Aden is vital for global trade and economy as it provides access to the Suez Canal through which ships transit between Europe and Asia without having to take the longer and more expensive southern route around the Cape of Good Hope. It is also a crucially important route for oil tankers.

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