Piracy problem: Inter-Ministerial Group to meet

New Delhi: As 46 Indians continue to be in the custody of Somali pirates, an Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) set up to tackle the problem will be holding its first meeting in the next four days to chalk out a strategy to secure their release and meet the continuing piracy threat.

The Group, constituted under the chairmanship of Additional Secretary, Shipping, Vijay Chhibber, also includes Joint Secretaries from Ministries of External Affairs, Home Affairs, Defence, Information and Broadcasting besides representatives from Navy and Intelligence Bureau.

The IMG has been formed on the recommendations of the Committee of Secretaries (CoS) as part of measures to curb piracy in the wake of increase in such incidents on high seas.

"The IMG, constituted for handling any crisis situation related to maritime sector is going to meet very soon — within three to four days," Shipping Secretary K Mohandas said.

He said the IMG will deliberate on measures to free Indians in the captivity of the Somali pirates apart from steps to strengthen security measures on high waters.

In case of very sensitive matters, the IMG will take up the issue with a Committee for crisis situations, headed by Cabinet Secretary, he said.

Apart from constituting an IMG, the government is also contemplating a new law to tackle the menace.

At present, 46 Indians are in the captivity of Somali pirates after being captured on board four vessels over last year or so. They include seven aboard Indian freighter Asphalt Venture, whose other eight hostages were released after payment of ransom recently.

The ships in captivity of pirates include India-flag bearer MV Asphalt Venture, MV Iceberg and MV Suez and among others.