Friday, March 11, 2011

Onus on ship owners to resolve hostage crises: India

United Nations, March 11, 2011

While the fate of six Indian sailors being held by Somali pirates hangs in the balance, India on Thursday told the UN Security Council that the ship owners needed to do more to secure the release of captives.

There are currently 53 Indians being held by pirates on ships belonging to different countries.

"The primary responsibility for the release of hostages lies with the owners of the ships concerned," Indian envoy to the UN Hardeep Singh Puri said at a debate on Somalia, organised by China, which holds the presidency of the Council for March.

"In many cases, it has been observed that the owners of the ships involved do not take the responsibility or display adequate interest in securing the release of sailors under their employment," he said.

The Indian envoy also called for strong collective action on the part of the international community to rein in piracy. "Sailors are in many circumstances required to endure very harsh conditions under the captivity of pirates and are often tortured by their captors," Puri said.

"Democracies are, in particular, sensitive to public opinion and are impacted by a public sense of need to act on the adverse situations faced by their citizens," he added.

Several diplomats at the debate condemned the recent killing of four Americans on their yacht, which was captured by Somali pirates off the coast of Oman in the Indian Ocean.

Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed warned the Council that piracy could feed into terrorist activities. "It will not surprise us if al-Qaeda's agents in Somalia start hijacking tankers in the high seas and use them as deadly weapons as they did in September 2011," warned Mr Mohamed, whose Western-backed transitional government is struggling to wrest control from al-Shabab, a group linked with al-Qaeda.

"Why bother with a small plane when you can capture a tanker."

The Council later issued a statement that stressed the need for "comprehensive response to tackle piracy and its underlying causes", and called on member-states of the UN to maintain the arms embargo against Somalia. "The Security Council condemns in the strongest terms such as violence, including hostage taking, murder and other acts of violence against individuals," it said.

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