Don’t rule out military options

The navy shouldn’t have its hands tied in the fight against pirates

That the Indian government is ‘finalising’ a strategy against piracy in the high seas is good news, although that a special strategy is being contemplated suggests an absence of an effective, comprehensive maritime strategy. Pirates, after all, have been around for almost as long as there have been ships, and tackling them should actually be old hat.

So while we await what the government will finalise, we know that it has already ruled out some options. According to Defence Ministry A K Antony “as a policy, the government would not carry out hot pursuit of pirates, as it had wider implications.” Mr Antony’s statement ruling out one option or the other is not prudent, not timely and wholly unnecessary. Not least when negotiations are in progress to secure the release of Indian crew held hostage by Somali pirates.

What Mr Antony should have said is that “all options are on the table.” Ideally the ‘finalised strategy’ should say so too. But now pirates, terrorists and Indian naval commanders know that the Indian Navy’s hands are tied behind its back.

11 thoughts on “Don’t rule out military options”

  1. I really think Ministers and other senior leaders like the Defence Minister must stop giving off the cuff remarks, and consider the consequences of their words on the rest of the system that is HIS responsibility as minister. What the DM is doing is providing valuable clues to the pirates on how the Indian Navy operates so that the pirates can outwit our forces or at the very least make their job more difficult than it already is. How would the honourable minister like it if the PM ensure that every morning a crew came in reshuffled all of his papers and rearranged all the files?

  2. I don’t think that the hands of the defence minister are tied in the first place. To quote from the UN resolution just taken on 2nd June:

    The UN security council has unanimously adopted a resolution allowing foreign warships to enter Somalia’s territorial waters to fight piracy.

    It is the cowardice of the ministers that blocks the path to a swift commando strike. Imagine what the US might have done if 18 of their countrymen were taken.

  3. @Nitin

    why so much of fuss about a military action.the ship does not belong to our country and nobody knows what flag she is carrying.it is a complicated matter and nobody wants to set a precedence.Indian crew being there is incidental.what about the cargo.whom does it belong to.please put on your thinking caps.don’t become emotional about military action.

  4. I would like ppl to look at the issue in a different perspective. we r not the saviours of the world, and it would not bother us if somali pirates took a ship a day, provided it was not indian, as also no repeat no indian citizen or cargo was involved. it is an issue of geopolitical consequence. if we want to project ourselves as a regional power, we have to understand that there are some places where international law takes back seat and the national interest comes to the forefront. hence our foreign policy shud have a clause for retribution or punishment in case any of indian interests are harmed, and we have to be fanatical about it. decisions on action shud be automatic, without the usual dithering due to the analysis of repurcussions of the actions. our government took one week to take a decision on the issue, when it was too late, whereas we shud have had a contingency plan with navy ready to take action based on a decision by one individual (no more NSC or the cabinet, which takes 18 hours and still does not take any decision). such actions would generate a sense a respect for the country, and a sense of self pride among the indian themselves who look at other countries for role models (obama gets more coverage that Manmohan). India shud have tied up with a central asian republic and after the hostages had been released from afghanistan, and shud have bombed it out of shape as a punishment which was well within our capability. similarly during the Fiji crisis at least a bit of force posturing with a few warships shud have been done.
    the power of a country is not in having a weapon, but in its ability to take a decision to use them. so let the indian government first get out of its indian mentality of sitting pretty on issues hoping they would resolve themselves. bangladesh’s killing of 18 BSF personnel is a case in point. why did we not launch a punitive strike and then talk to them. it would have made Nepal think 10 times before kidnapping any indian citizen, and bangladesh would have thrown out all ULFA camps out of the country. i have heard the refrain of “it is not as easy as you think” or “there are bigger issues involved” i call them tools of the weak or rather the tools of the Indian baniya, who is worried about his assets more than anything else. let us not brandish our strength, but it shud be unsheathed without hesitation at the time of need.

    well there are some preparations to be done before we try such things. first we have to decide if R&W is a clerical organisation or a premier intelligence organisation, and change its structure. secondly let the three arms of defence develop capability to undertake such operations either jointly or independently. change the NSA to a more empowered appointment, who shud be second to the PM, and be able to take decisions in emergency. and Nitin, chinese would not like to get their navy there, but interrupt your shipping lines to keep u occupied. there is a need for learning geopolitics if u want to write about national interest. National interest is not reacting after an incident, but having a reputation which deters such adventures.

    why india came up on the economic radar of the world? when the world realised that despite all types of embargoes and financial denial to the country after Pokhran blast, the country continued to stand firm, they understood the economic prowess of the country and this led to increased attention towards us. hence it is time to be firm and strong and not bask in OLD GLORY that we have survived despite invaders from Ghazni to british and “we gave the world zero”.

    In this same discussion i would like to start a new discussion as to the type of government suitable for india – Parliamentary or Presidential?

    Parliamentary- i have been saying earlier, collective responsibility is no responsibility. how can we hold a bunch a goofs responsible when they no nothing about the issue at all (listen to any debate in the Parliament). the minister nods his head wisely in case of a goof up and says we will look into it, and the bureaucrat says, well we are the followers and did what the minister told us. so no one is responsible. the PM is supposed to be the head of the executive, but his survival is dependent on the others in the cabinet, who are senior to him.

    Presidential – President is the true head of the executive and has the mandate to take action on any issue. he has adequate degree of freedom from impeachment which is also the check on him in case he becomes belligerent. he would be a true leader of the country (listen to Obama or Putin) unlike Manmohan or Vajpai or Narsimha rao, and would be genuinely interested in the country.

  5. Ghanashyam, till the time your neighbour is getting killed it does not bother u. u will bother only when u r in such a scenario and then want everything in the country to be used for urself. very wise Indian (sic)

    hope ur not in MEA which gave such advise.

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