Thursday, March 3, 2011

No plans for offensive action against Somali pirates: Antony

New Delhi, March 3, 2011

Defence Minister A.K. Antony on Thursday ruled out any plans for offensive action against Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden despite an increase in piracy-related incidents.

Expressing concerns over the rise in such incidents, Mr. Antony termed the piracy threat as a "serious problem" and said, "Everyday we are getting alerts and threats. Families of the people who are abducted are in agony."

"It is a sorry state of affairs. More than 18 navies are working together there (in the Gulf of Aden). In spite of this fact, we are not able to contain these pirates. But the efforts are going on," he said.

The Defence Minister was responding to queries about the possibility of launching offensive against the pirates in the wake of increasing incidents of abduction of Indian nationals for ransom by them.

Speaking on the occasion, Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma said it was for the government to decide and permit offensive action against pirates.

"There are issues of casualty which the government will look at. Besides that, there is a concern of jurisdiction on a foreign flag vessel. There are certain issues, and so many stake holders," he said.

On the issue of paying ransom to secure release of abducted Indian nationals, Mr. Antony said, "That part government is not handling. We are trying to lessen the woes of the relatives of the people who are abducted... Government is aware of the sensitivity. We are concerned about the agony of the people."

The minister said 18 navies were deployed in the Gulf of Aden and India will also continue its efforts and coordination with other forces against the piracy.

On the global efforts to counter piracy, the Navy chief said, "This is being addressed jointly in a quite extensive way. We have United Nations group on countering piracy. You can be sure that since it is engaging the world communities, this is being addressed jointly, and in a quite extensive way."

Mr. Verma said though there were no fool-proof answers to tackle the problem but if pirate mother ships are located before they indulge in any act, it can be addressed to a certain extent.

On the measures taken by the Navy to control piracy in the Indian Ocean Region, Mr. Verma said, "From November last year, we have intensified patrolling in the eight degree channel off the Lakshadweep island."

He said some of the foreign vessels have built safe houses on the ships and gave example of a Russian vessel which had a safe house.

"Russian Navy launched the operation after steering for 18 hours as the crew was inside an explosion proof safe house with enough ration. If the crew is safe then offensive operation can be mounted," the Navy Chief added

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