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Somali Pirates: Threat at Doorstep
By IANS | Bharat Defence Kavach | Publish Date: 4/9/2011 12:59:08 AM
Somali Pirates: Threat at Doorstep
Somali Pirates

The ancient phenomenon of Piracy resurfaced in the 1980s and 1990s and reached a peak around the year 2000 when there were a total of 469 attacks on Merchant Vessels.
The bulk of these attacks (242 incidents) were focused around the straits of Malacca. Concerted international action managed to bring down the number of these attacks. However by then Somalia had emerged as a tragically failed state where the central state authority had crumbled and local warlords ruled the roost. Such failed states become shatter zones of collapse and form the ideal havens for non- state actors like terrorists and pirates. By 2008, Somalia had become the new locus for world piracy. In fact the levels of piracy reached such a peak (406 incidents) in 2009 that many nations felt compelled to deploy their Navies into the Gulf of Aden to escort ships and enforce convoys. The Indian Navy had sent its first ship into the area on 23 Oct 2008. Energetic operations by the combined International Task Force 150, combined with naval ships sent by Russia , China and India, soon forced the Somali Pirates to reduce their operations off the Coast of Somalia.
Piracy Enters the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean
 However, in response, the Somali pirates simply began to shift their areas of operations further. They first shifted to the East African Coast and off the island states of Seychelles and Madagascar. What is now cause for alarm however is the major shift of Somali pirate attacks into the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean Region in the year 2010. The Piracy incident maps issued by the International Maritime Organisation for 2005 and 2010 clearly highlight this major shift in the Somali Pirate attack patterns. Somali Pirates have struck last year off the Lakshadweep Island and hijacked ships as close as 3-400 nautical miles from the Indian Coast. To range so far and wide on the high seas the Somali pirates hijack Ocean going Commercial Vessels and use them as Mother Ship to stage attacks in the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. What was the world’s problem so far, may now increasingly become an Indian problem. As of Feb 2011 the Somali Pirates were holding 33 ships and 711 sailors as hostages for ransom. Some 215 out of these (almost 30%) were Indian sailors. Of this staggering number some 136 sailors have so far been released. However 79 crew members and 7 Indian Ships are still held hostage with the Somali Pirates. The Somali Pirates are now increasingly striking the busy shipping lanes off the Lakshadweep Islands. Between 24 and 29 Nov 2010, there was a spurt of piracy attempts in Eastern Arabian Sea between 350-700 nautical miles from the Indian shore. On 05 Dec 1910 they captured a Bangladeshi Merchant ship (MV Jahan Moni) some 70 nautical miles from Indian territory off the Minicoy islands. On 28 Jan 2011 the Indian Navy and Coast Guard destroyed a pirate mothership Prantalay 14 some 300 nautical miles off the Lakshadweep group of islands. This ship had been seized by pirates in Apr 2010 and was being used as a mothership. The latest incident has occoured on 14 mar 11 when Indian warships rescued the Vega -5 Ship of Mozambique which had been hijacked by Somali pirates just 600 nautical miles from the Indian shore. Some 61 Somali pirates were captured and 90 weapons recovered Clearly the problem has come too close to our shoreline for comfort. The Indian states mollycoddling of terrorists and pirates has encouraged them to strike closer to our shores. In concert with our soft approach to terrorism we had so far, adopted an equally soft approach towards piracy. Our concern for observing the nicities of international Laws seemed far greater than our concern for the safety of our citizens.
Response Options
There was media outrage recently over the Indian state’s total lack of sensitivity and concern towards the fate of Indian sailors of the MV Suez (an Egyptian Vessel) hijacked over 11 months ago. It is surprising that the Indian govt. had expressing its total helplessness in the face of such pirate attacks on it citizens. We have been insisting that our security forces deal with all the 21st century problems of Piracy and terrorism under the CrPc enacted in the 18th century. We first of all need to enact laws that criminalize piracy as defined in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The Indian Navy, Coast Guard and Marcos need to be freed to act far more energetically against suspected pirate ships and hijacked mother vessels. Mercifully the rules of engagement have now been reviewed and the Indian Navy has shown what it can do to raise costs for such Piratic attacks. We need to engage and disable pirate ships in a far more pro-active manner and if necessary storm any Indian merchant ships that are hijacked by Pirates. We need to act and avoid tying ourselves into bureaucratic knots. Such expressions of helplessness only invite more attacks.  Hijacked ships taken to Somali ports must be tracked by GPS and Surveillance satellites and wherever operationally feasible, rescue attempts must be mounted to deter such hostage taking. Alternatively once the hostages and ships are released the crews must be thoroughly debriefed and Somali ports/facilities where these were berthed must be subjected to Naval aviation/Naval gunfire strikes. The UN Security Council Resolution of 17 Dec 2008 in fact had called for international land and sea operations in pursuit of pirates. We may also consider putting armed guards on our Merchant ships traversing such vulnerable areas.   The world cannot passively watch the mushrooming growth of the menace of piracy.
The Chinese Muscle in
The Chinese are using the piracy threat to muscle in into the Arabian Sea and IOR. So far the Chinese Navy has mounted over 300 escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and the IOR. It has escorted 2454 Chinese and Foreign Vessels in this region. The Island microstates of the IOR like Maldives , Mauritius and Sychelles are seriously getting concerned by the rise of piracy. At this rate they may invite the Chinese to establish bases to provide security. India will have to preempt such moves. That means it must reach out and try and become a net -security provider in its own geo-political backyard. To do that it must first secure its own citizens and ships. It is also time to send a clear message that we will not tolerate attacks on our citizens whether by pirates or by terrorists. We will do all in our power to raise the costs for such attacks. The threat of Somali pirates is coming too close to our shores for comfort. It is time to act proactively before other Navies move into our geo-political backyard to do this task for us. The Indian state has great military power at its disposal. The State must now learn to use it proactively to safeguard the lives and property of its citizens  


Somali Pirates: Threat at Doorstep


भारत डिफेंस कवच की नई हिन्दी पत्रिका ‘डिफेंस मॉनिटर’ का ताजा अंक ऊपर दर्शाया गया है। इसके पहले दस पन्ने आप मुफ्त देख सकते हैं। पूरी पत्रिका पढ़ने के लिए कुछ राशि का भुगतान करना होता है। पुराने अंक आप पूरी तरह फ्री पढ़ सकते हैं। पत्रिका के अंकों पर क्लिक करें और देखें। -संपादक

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