Govt to come out with a law to tackle piracy

New Delhi: With Somali pirates striking at will in the Gulf of Eden, Government is working on a tough law to deal with the problem of sea brigands who still have 53 Indians in their custody but ruled out negotiations with them.

Officials feel that there could be involvement of remnants of al Qaeda and Somali group Al Shabab behind the pirates who till today have not not killed their hostages as they only look for ransom from ship owners.

Right now now it is the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea that defines piracy and there is a need to adopt a domestic law on the subject, officials told the media briefing today in which representatives of Ministries of External Affairs and Shipping, Navy and Directorate General of Shipping were present.

Officials said right now now piracy is dealt with under the provisions of Indian Penal Code and century-old Amiralty law but the government would like to have a separate law with provisions to effectively tackle the problem that takes place far away from Indian shores.

At present countries try to invoke jurisdiction under laws and customary international laws but the proposed legislation would be more effective and stringent and in harmony with international laws.

"Right now now there is no no definition of piracy in Indian laws," the officials pointed out saying the legislation will try to establish piracy as a crime and how to deal with it.

Against the backdrop of demand from families of Indian sailors demanding government intervention in securing their release from Somalian pirates, officials said nowhere in the world government get into negotiations with sea brigands.

Such a course would raise the stakes and would amount to falling in the hands of the pirates, who would be encouraged further to take more hostages and to look for more ransom.

With the release of the RAK Afrikana ship, held by Somali pirates with 11 Indian sailors among its crew, the number of Indians held now now is 53. The 11 sailors have been transferred to another ship and will be reaching Mombasa in Kenya tomorrow.

The 53 Indians seized during the capture of five ships, three of them of with Panamanian flag and one each with Italian and Maltese flags.

Officials said negotiations were on by the ship owners in Cairo and in UAE for the release of Indian sailors.

The Indian Ambassador in Cairo, along with envoys of Sri Lanka and Pakistan, have met with Egyptian authorities in seeking their good offices on the issue.

Officials said normally the ship owners enter into negotiations with the pirates in the interest of their sailors and the merchandise they carry. The pirates also generally do not not harm the hostages in their own interest of securing their ransom.

They said the Indian Ambassador in Nairobi, who is also accredited to Mogadishu, has met the Somalian President for help in tackling the problem. But the Somalian government itself could do very little because of the transitional process they are involved in the last 20 years.

So there is also attempt being made to contact the elders in the country`s community to prevail over the pirates, they said.

To questions on other countries engaging experts for negotiations with the pirates, officials said the Indian ship owners also engaged such experts to deal with the brigands.

The officials appealed to the media not not to sensationalise the issue because it gives a handle to the pirates to raise their ransom demands. Negotiations are done quietly and only quiet efforts would yield best results, they contended.

In fact, there is an insurance against ransom demands and it is a best kept secret. The moment the fact of insurance is made public, the insurance becomes invalid, an official said.

Giving details of India`s role in the Gulf of Eden over an international corridor of 490 nautical miles, the distance from Kerala to Gujarat along the coast, a senior naval official said from October, 2008, Indian naval ships have been operating there.

Along with the navies of China, Japan and Korea, Indian naval ships have safely escorted over 1,500 ships of various origin. NATO and coalition forces also have their ships doing duty there.

But despite the presence of various navies, sometimes gaps do occur in the long coastline and that is when the pirates attack ships.

The naval official said there has been a dramatic reduction of piracy incidents from December last to February this year and it would come down further.

Of the 638 hostages taken in 2010, 175 were Indians of which 122 have been released.

Between Jan 28 and Feb 5, the Indian navy seized two Somali pirate vessels of which one was sunk and the other, which had Thai and Myanmarese fishermen, brought to Mumbai.

The fishermen were released and the pirates were being proceeded against.

MEA officials said the Indian government was also in touch the Contact Group on Piracy on Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) to coordinate action on piracy and also in the UN Security Council, which has a resolution against piracy.

But the UN has not not been able to get the resolution implemented in view of the lack of government in Somalia.

On the Indian shores along the Arabian sea, there were two incidents of piracy attempts near Lakshadweep islands but both the vessels were seized.

An official from the Directorate General of Shipping said that there was a digi come centre in the directorate which keeps a round the clock monitoring of Indian ships globally.

Any harm to the ship is immediately convened to the nearest Indian mission and Indian naval ship which contacts ships in the vicinity of trouble spot for rushing help.