Indian Navy to deploy more ships in Gulf of Aden (Lead)

November 20th, 2008 - 8:36 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 20 (IANS) After a successful hostile action against Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden, the Indian Navy will be deploying more warships in the waterway, one of the busiest and the most pirate infested shipping lanes in the world, a senior naval official Thursday said.In the wake of the proposals coming from various quarters for the augmentation of its forces in the Gulf of Aden, an important route for oil supplies to India, the shipping ministry has sought deployment of at least four warships in the region for anti-piracy operations.

“We recognize that one ship has some successes but it is not the answer. We are looking at how to augment Indian Navy’s assets there. Proposals from many quarters including the shipping ministry and merchant associations are pending,” the official here said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Indian Navy’s stealth frigate INS Tabar Tuesday night engaged the pirates for the first time and sank a “mother vessel” that had two speedboats in tow. INS Tabar, which so far has escorted 35 merchant vessels passing through the region, had also staved off pirate attacks on two merchant ships last week.

The Gulf of Aden is vital for the trade and economy of India and the rest of the world 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 route around the southern tip of Africa. It is a crucially important route for oil tankers.

Besides augmenting its assets, the Indian Navy is concurrently looking for a collaborative arrangement in the region to successfully combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden, after the International Maritime Bureau has termed the situation “out of control”.

Combating piracy in the region requires “phenomenal efforts” as it covers an area of 2.5 million square nautical miles, the naval officer pointed out.

“Currently, three groupings including the US-led Combined Task Force-150, a NATO grouping and an European Union grouping is patrolling the region. But, the task of coordination is not clear and thus operations become more complex.

“No single navy can commit an indefinite amount of assets. But the efforts have to come from everywhere. Under the collaborative approach, a multinational force under the unified command of the United Nations is the only feasible solution,” the official added.

He also asserted that in case an Indian-flagged ship is threatened by pirates, the navy would adopt a more aggressive stance.

“Fortunately no ship under an Indian flag has faced a crisis. If such situation arises we will revaluate our strategy. Our primary concern is Indian ships,” the official said.

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.

Somali pirates have attempted 95 hijackings this year alone, a 75 percent increase since 2007. They are currently holding 13 ships captive in the Somali ports of Eyl and Hobyo in the Gulf of Aden.

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