Of late, the world’s attention has been drawn to the hijacking of ships (of various types, belonging to different countries) by Somali pirates to extract ransoms. Though, there is a token presence of naval vessels from different countries to protect their merchant ships plying in one of the world’s busiest, commercial shipping lanes, however it is a mere presence and nothing serious to challenge the Somali pirates, who are operating in the vast expanse of water in the Gulf of Aden at virtually will and random.
Though, I am not in favour of any Indian political parties and abhor most of their politicians, nevertheless I wish to commend the present Indian Government for having the sagacity to send at least one naval ship, i.e. INS Tabar, which on the late hours of 18th November 2008 challenged a Somali pirates’ mother ship and ordered it to stop for search and inspection operations. When this pirate vessel refused, threatened and started firing at the naval ship, the latter retaliated and destroyed it in a matter of minutes.
This is a courageous act by the Government in giving complete freedom for the Navy to act the way they deem (or deemed) fit, considering the disgrace we had to suffer on 24th December 1999, when the Government of the day did not do anything to stop a flight IC-814 from Kathmandu to Delhi that was forced to land in Amritsar due to fuel shortage, ultimately flying with passengers to Kandarhar, Afghanistan, where the passengers were released only after the Indian authorities released certain terrorists from Indian jails. This was done by the ex-Foreign Minister, Jaswant Singh, who went personally to Kandahar to hand over the prisoners to the hijackers and get the release of the passengers (in exchange for a safe passage to the hijackers). What a shameful act it was for the Indian Government to bow to a bunch of terrorists?
Considering that there are naval vessels of different countries, including USA, the world’s most powerful navy and other naval vessels of NATO countries, etc. patrolling the Gulf of Aden without, so far, intercepting and challenging the Somali pirates, the success achieved by the solitary Indian naval vessel, INS Tabar, is something noteworthy and heartening to all patriotic Indians. The Indian Government should take much heart in this success, but should realise that it is too much for a single naval ship to patrol the vast expanse of water to protect numerous vessels passing through these sea lanes and also keeping an eye on the pirates. This, in short, is impossible and asking for too much and like looking for a needle in a haystack.
India has around 150 naval ships of different sizes, tonnages, fire power and quite a number of them have state-of-the-art technology and equipment and considering the task at hand, India should send at least five modern naval ships, carrying naval or marine commandos and helicopter gunships, backed by fast and heavily armed patrol boats to provide a potent force that can totally and effectively protect Indian and foreign ships plying in these waters, besides searching and destroying pirate vessels. It is high time for India to be quite assertive when dealing with forces that affect its interest and security, rather than being helpless and just whimpering and groaning. India is not a banana republic, but with the help and cooperation of the opposition parties to the Government of the day, India will be able to successfully tackle any threats to it from outside and within. However, this is a tall order, because opposition parties are there just to oppose at all times. I wonder how many of Indian politicians are aware of what is going on in the Gulf of Aden and the existence of Somalia.
As the Somali sea pirates have been operating for quite some time now and with the ransom money, these pirates have built up luxurious villas on the sea fronts. I, as a layman, presume that our intelligence agencies have not been sitting on their bottoms, but doing their homework in finding out who these people are, their locations, information on their landed properties, etc. This could be useful for the Indian Navy to blockade the harbours (or ports) on the Somalian coast where these pirates operate from and force them to surrender and these criminals and thugs could be tried by international courts and, if convicted, face punishment. If the pirates are not in a mood to surrender, then the commandos could launch raids to destroy their hideouts and infrastructure.
Just imagine the positive impact that India would achieve, if they are successful in countering these pirates. This would enhance India’s prestige on the international stage. Further, any country or terrorist organisation thinking of messing around with India, would have to think many times before embarking on adventures or, shall we say, misadventures, as the consequences would be disastrous for the enemy.
Compared to the post-independent India’s Army and Air Force, Navy has not had that much combat experience and this exercise could help it in learning tactics in dealing with piracy at sea. Further, the Indian Coast Guard could also assist the Navy in providing escort to Indian merchant vessels plying in these hostile waters.
Many seafaring nations are either plying their ships in the sea lanes of the Gulf of Aden or pirate-infested waters of the Horn of Africa nation with much fear and others have started taking the longer, circuitous route across the African continent. Enough is enough and someone has to put an end to this threat.
Author: Nelson Lewis- Bahrain