Off to Somalia

The Navy is off, with helicopters & marine commandos

It is nice to know that they listened.

But the details are confusing. In the Times of India, Rajat Pandit reports that the INS Tabar, a Talwar-class guided missile frigate, is already in the Gulf of Aden and a new ship (INS Ganga?)will be sent to replace it. The new ship will have helicopters and a detachment of marine commandos, suggesting that it is equipped for the job. But the absence of an accompanying tanker might indicate the duration of the mission is short, or cooperation with other navies in the region.

Mr Pandit’s report then says that the government gave permission for “formal anti-piracy patrols” yesterday. So what was INS Tabar doing there before that?

Finally, Mr Pandit shouldn’t get too caught up with interpreting what international law says about entering Somalian waters. Jus cogens provides a prima facie case and the UN Security Council Resolution 1816 and the Somalian president have provided legal cover. What matters is whether India has the resolve, and whether other powers will object. The first is now settled. The second was not an issue in this case.

10 thoughts on “Off to Somalia”

  1. Hurray! to that and the best to our men and women in uniform on the seas around Somalia.

  2. As per the PTI report at NDTV

    Initially, India would deploy only one of its warships in the region but it could be increased later on a need basis, the spokesperson said. …”However, the current decision to patrol African waters is not directly related to the Stolt Valor abduction,” a Defence ministry official said later.

    The Express report states that–

    Though the “operational details” were kept under wraps, sources said naval warships – which are in the vicinity of the patrolling route between Salalah (Oman) and Aden (Yemen) – are being sent for patrolling.”The warship will have carrier helicopters, boats and endurance to stay in water for a long period of time as it is being sent more than 500 nautical miles away,” a Navy official said. The warship will coordinate the patrol with French and US warships, already present in the region.

    The Telegraph adds

    The frigate-sized patrol ship will remain in the gulf for 20 days to a month at a stretch, after which it will be replaced by another vessel.

    I think Rajat Pandit and TOI may be making educated guesses based on conjecture rather than hard facts. The full operational details are not publicly available yet and it will take some time to get a clearer picture of the Indian plans. In all probability, it would be a limited deployment and vessels would be rotated after a month or so. The refuelling could be from other navies operating the region.

    About the legal angle, the UN resolution and the press release is here. It does not require any special concurrence from the TSG [Transitional Somalian Government] to operate in Somalia’s international waters, as long as the country recognises TSG. The AU peacekeepers are there in Somalia and the TSG is represented at the UN. So it would be obviously recognised by the Indian government. This US state department release also makes the issue clearer about the rights of foreign navies operating in Somalian waters.

    In any case, remember Israel and Entebbe — jus cogens. That’s it.

    What the UK government and the Royal Navy is doing is slightly different? They are planning to enter into a bilateral agreement with the TSG.

    The “hot pursuit” of pirates is bunkum. What does it mean? How do other navies operate? You don’t want to get caught in Somalia- Sudan and their messy internal turmoil. What all other navies do and India will also do in all probability is deter the pirates and protect the shipping lanes and Indian Commercial ships.

    The TOI report is otherwise also short on facts. Where is the EU force deployed at GoA? They will be there by December. The number of ships targeted this year by pirates is 93 and not 30 odd as mentioned by Rajat.

    So, there is a need to exercise some discretion on arriving at conclusions based on unverified and ostensibly incorrect press reports.

  3. There was meeting between Indian and US military guys yesterday – although they were Army guys. I wonder if US pushed India to get in the action…..

  4. @chandra,

    The navies are having joint exercises off Goa. Dunno about army. But it’s unlikely that Americans had anything to do with this. If anything they are telling us to focus on Bay of Bengal and leave the Arabian sea to them.

    But even if Americans had a role, so what?

  5. Patrolling the waters off Somalia may be useful to project India as a naval power, but what steps has India taken to protect the Indian fishermen who are fired at every week by the Srilankan navy when they fish off the waters of Katchatheevu ? India has taken no steps except requesting Srilanka to stop the attacks, for which the Srilankans pay adequate lip service. Somalian pirates have got international attention by demanding ransom in millions and attracted the navies of the US, France and other countries. When the navies of these countries get prime coverage in the international media, we also step in to get our due. The question that has not been still answered is, ‘what steps the government has taken to secure the release of the crew of Stolt Valor’? Patrols may be good to prevent another hijacking, but does India at present has the intelligence about the ship’s location and the crew’s location? The crew must now be on Somalian land and not on sea. Ransom seems to be only viable way out if we want the crew alive. The government must talk to the shipping company and exert pressure on them to pay the ransom.

    Gunboats are good tools of diplomacy only when you know what you want. Patrolling the seas off distant lands in itself does not help to achieve any objective unless we have a clear cut objective. In the past, even Tamil militant groups of Srilanka have mounted naval expedition and staged a coup in the island nation of Maldives – an big achievement for their size. Simply because we are able to patrol in Somalia we don’t become a great naval power.

    India seems to be losing the policy war, we don’t have a strategic policy to keep in check the small countries like Srilanka, Nepal and Bangladesh which have greater nuisance value than ever before due to active Chinese help. Nepal now has a maoist leader, who breaking tradition, visited China before he visited India and still has not relinquished his dream of a maoist statehood for Nepal. Bangladesh has become breeding ground for terrorists and Chittagong a forward naval base for the Chinese. And China is now building a port north of Colombo in Srilanka. The Srilankans have successfully broken the hands-off approach India had taken on Srilanka after 1991, by successfully playing the China card. The most puzzling thing is that the Srilankan diplomats have been always successful than Indian diplomats as far as negotiations are concerned. Among their achievements are the repatriation of half of Indian plantation workers back to India, the ceding of Katchatheevu, non-implementation of Indo-Srilanka accord, and the current Indian military and economic assistance to Srilanka in return for little tangible benefits to India.

    The growth of the military in itself does not constitute a powerful nation. What is required is a practically and strategically thinking establishment, that is not rooted in the past, yet not forget history and is always conscious of the happenings in our surroundings. We want a strategic establishment that is non-ideological, hard nosed and not reluctant to use other countries’ inherent weaknesses to our advantage even if it is against public morality.
    Considering the policies adopted by India towards the present crisis in Srilanka, it makes us think whether our bureaucrats value the sovereignty of Srilanka more than the long term strategic interests of India. By only reacting when a storm is rising in Tamilnadu, the present government, its foreign policy and security establishment have once again demonstrated their lack of strategic depth.

  6. @shaan,

    India may have sent a ship to Somalia but when will Indians learn the value of brevity?

    Dude, I lost you completely. Do you normally say things in a roundabout way (on a Friday evening that too) or did you cut and paste that from somewhere?

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