‘India not comfortable to work under any other command besides UN’

November 21st, 2008 - 9:31 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 21 (IANS) India will be “very uncomfortable” taking part in any anti-piracy operation under any other nation’s flag if NATO nations objects to the United Nations taking the lead in coordinating action to protect merchant ships against hijacking.“We will be very uncomfortable to work under anyone else’s command,” said a highly-placed source here Friday.

India’s official proposal had been made by the meeting of the International Maritime Organisation, where the shipping secretary had called for the setting up of a marine peacekeeping force under the United Nations in the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden.

But sources in South Block said that NATO members were not to keen on that proposal. “One of the reasons is that they have very good communication and inter-operability between the national military units. So, they do not have any issue with working with each other,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Further, NATO was not convinced that UN has the expertise to run such an operation, as it has never had a marine force before.

“But, UN does not need to have a full-fledged command, they can act as a coordinator or create a communication web to keep the various nations informed,” the source said.

Currently, the various countries having naval vessels in the key shipping route only have an informal, coordinated patrol. “Except, knowing where everybody is and what they are doing, we are basically on our own. It is up to us to choose whether to engage or not (offensively with pirates),” he said.

India’s sole naval ship INS Tabar had on Tuesday night fired upon and sunk a pirate “mother vessel”. Earlier last week, it had responded to distress signals from Indian and Saudi vessels and escorted them to safety.

India has been now mulling sending more warships to the area, even as other countries in the European Union and Russia are planning to enter the fray to protect one of the world’s busiest routes, which is crucial for its proximity to oil sources.

“Ultimately, the issue will only get resolved when the Somali pirates realise that the hijacking is not lucrative anymore, as the world is grouped against them,” he added.

There has been spurt in hijacking of commercial ships off the coast of Somalia, with the latest being of a giant Saudi oil tanker for which pirates are reporting asking a ransom of $25 million.

This has alarmed international shipping firms, some of whom are now avoiding the Gulf of Aden and instead taking the long trip around the southern tip of Africa - a costly enterprise in the current gloomy financial scenario.

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