Somali pirates shifting location towards India: Parrikar

Bhubaneswar: Beaten back in their usual area of operations, Somali pirates are “shifting their location” towards India, but the country is watchful to deal with such threats, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar today said.

“Today’s threats are not traditional. Somali pirates, after being neutralised by various countries’ navies, are shifting their locations towards India. Because their (shipping) lanes are heavily guarded, they have moved 30-40 nautical miles, although they still are 450 nautical miles away from India.

“They may not be next to India but… We are watchful and careful,” Parrikar said at an international conference on ‘India & the Indian Ocean: Renewing the Maritime Trade & Civilisational Linkages’, organised by the Institute of Social and Cultural Studies (ISCS) jointly with Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS).

Calling for greater cooperation between the neighbouring countries, he said, “The Indian Ocean can be an enricher and also a destroyer, hence we should also be prepared for disaster and develop strong relationships and communication with neighbouring countries to avoid any kind of disaster.”

Pitching for a creation of a common platform for the Indian Ocean rim region, he further said, “We are in a common grid and are tied to each other. If India strengthens, being the focal point and located strategically, it can facilitate others.” He also said that India’s strength lies in non- violence, but it can be practised only by those that are strong.

Stressing that the Indian Ocean region is “very important for us”, Parrikar pointed out that it “accounts for more than 50 per cent of the world’s oil reserves and more than 45 per cent of the world’s gas reserves”.

Somali pirates have been a threat to international shipping in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea, especially in the Gulf of Aden, which is a busy route, and have made millions of dollars in ransom by seizing ships.

In 2011, there were 439 pirate attacks and 45 merchant vessels hijacked worldwide, of which 237 attacks and 28 hijackings occurred in the Gulf of Aden, off the Somali coast.

The Combined Task Force — a multi-national coalition task force — took on the role of fighting piracy off the coast of Somalia by establishing a Maritime Security Patrol Area (MSPA) within the Gulf of Aden.

The increasing threat posed by piracy has been a matter of concern for India since most of its shipping trade routes pass through the Gulf of Aden.

Meanwhile, Union Petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan said,”India is prepared to play a leading role in this context in the affairs of Indian Ocean region for the larger benefit of all countries in our region,” Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said at the valedictory session of an international conference, “India and the Indian Ocean: Renewing the Maritime Trade and Civilisational Linkage.”

Stating that the three-day interaction generated greater confidence to aim higher for stronger cooperation in economic and trade areas, Pradhan said, “The whole region has the potential to emerge as an economic powerhouse and spring board with intense economic, energy and trade activities.”

The conference has aided in building in depth understanding of several issues and will strengthen the academic and research resources on Indian Ocean studies, he added.