Earlier post on the subject :A potboiler… off the Somalian coast
Somalia is a failed state with no central government and over 3,000 miles of coastline. NATO reports that there have been seven new piracy-related incidents including two hijacks during the past week itself and nine vessels are now being held by Somali pirates for ransom. It also estimates that 93 piracy-related incidents have been reported so far this year in the Gulf of Aden and off the east coast of Somalia, compared to three incidents over the same period last year. A flotilla of seven NATO ships is moving in toward the Gulf of Aden to escort UN boats carrying food aid to Somalia and run patrols to deter pirate attacks on other vessels.
Interestingly, the pirates seem to be playing a well-coordinated relay action with every new hijacked ship. A Philippine DFA Undersecretary claims that the pirates appear to initially bring a hijacked ship to the port in Eyl village, northeast of Somalia. When a new ship is hijacked, the pirates move the first ship to another port. This goes on like a relay every time there’s a new hijacked ship. The ships are then distributed in different ports.
The Indian government seems to be finally listening to Nitin Pai’s exhortations for an Indian naval presence to tackle the Somalian pirates.
Government has approved deployment of Indian Naval warship in Gulf of Aden to patrol the normal route followed by Indian Flagships during passage between Salalah (Oman) and Aden (Yemen). …The patrolling is commencing immediately. The warship will be carrying helicopters and marine commandos. …The presence of Indian Navy in the area will help to protect our sea borne trade and instil confidence in our sea faring community, as well as function as a deterrent for pirates.[PIB]
Will it lead to storming of the hijacked ship Stolt Valor with 18 Indians aboard? That is a moot question. However the irresponsible media coverage focused on families demanding no military action and payment of ransom by the Indian government is reminiscent of the public pressure built up by similar media antics during the Kandahar hijack. The government has a very difficult choice to make. On the one hand, if the government pays the ransom, it will be charged by the same media of capitulation and India will be labelled as a weak state. On the other hand, some hostages may lose their lives if the ship is stormed by the Naval Commandos and the government will then be charged of callousness towards lives of Indian nationals.
There are only two scenarios where it can be a win-win situation for all the concerned parties — either the Indian naval commandos successfully storm the ship without any casualties or the threat of an Indian naval action leads to a lowered ransom amount and a negotiated settlement between the owners of the ship and the hijackers. The latter is a far safer and more prudent course of action and will happen in all likelihood.
While there is a glimmer of hope for the captive Indian sailors due to this (rather belated and laboured) decision by the government, the real advantage accrues to the Indian commercial ships moving through the Indian Ocean to the Suez Canal in the future. It also provides India with a chance to showcase its professional world-class Navy, which happens to be only strategic defence service [among the three services] protecting and promoting Indian commercial interests overseas.
The Indian Navy, in turn, is likely to benefit from close cooperation and joint operations with other navies deployed in the region — the US, the NATO, the EU, the CTF-150 et al. Exercise Malabar may have been restricted to only the Indian and US navies this year after vehement Chinese protests, but there are no such restrictions on joint operations in real-time missions with other navies in the Indian Ocean.
It is a welcome step that clearly signals India’s growing need to secure its larger strategic and economic interests. It is a significant departure from the Nehruvian facade of overseas military deployment — Indian troops serving under the UN flag for “risking lives in the service of an ideal”. Not only should this embolden the Indian government to signficantly rationalise its troop contribution to UN peacekeeping operations, this ought to also act as a precursor to other significant Out of Area operations undertaken by the Indian defence services for furtherance of vital foreign policy objectives, solely in the Indian national interest.