Pirates of Puntland

India must secure its maritime interests off the Horn of Africa

Among the tasks assigned to the Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150)—an international naval task force comprising, among others, of US, British, French, Pakistani and Bahraini ships—are maritime security operations in the Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea, Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. While its purpose is to deny the use of the seas to smugglers and terrorists the main problem in the area under its watch is piracy.

CTF-150 doesn’t have enough ships to secure one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. So it advises large, slower vessels to travel in convoys so that it can better watch over them. But since this is not always possible, around one in 500 ships fall victim to pirates. Since the monthly traffic is around 1500, pirates succeed in raiding three or four ships each month.

The proceeds from these raids have sparked off a boom in Puntland, on the Horn of Africa.

Whenever word comes out that pirates have taken yet another ship in the Somali region of Puntland, extraordinary things start to happen.

There is a great rush to the port of Eyl, where most of the hijacked vessels are kept by the well-armed pirate gangs.

People put on ties and smart clothes. They arrive in land cruisers with their laptops, one saying he is the pirates’ accountant, another that he is their chief negotiator. [‘BBC’]

Indian ships, cargoes and sailors have been affected by piracy off Somalia in recent years. Even without considering the linkages to international terrorism, there is a case for the Indian navy to help secure shipping lanes and Indian interests in that region. The Indian government must quickly approve the Navy’s proposals (via interim thoughts)to begin patrolling waters off Africa’s eastern coast.

6 thoughts on “Pirates of Puntland”

  1. Nitin, on a related topic, you might want to read about Kevin Rudd’s recent speech where he advocates the need to protect Australian SLOCs and the plethora of posts that followed on this topic on Lowy Interpreter. I just think there could be some convergence in Indian and Australian goals when it comes to protecting sea lanes off S.E. Asia. I am not aware of what Australian naval capabilities are, so going by some of the posts on The Interpreter, there are doubts about Australian Navy’s capability to project outward in order to protect their SLOCs. GoI must use this opportunity to make him understand the importance of the Quad and further emphasise why Australia cannot continue to depend completely on its trade with China in order to isolate itself from China’s expansionist strategy. Sooner or later Chinese will see Australia as the launchpad for US policy.

    The following article gives a good summary of how fast Chinese are moving and how furious we should be with the pace of GoI’s diplomacy.


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