Under pressure to end the hostage crisis off the Somali coast, the government on Friday announced the setting up of an apex group under the cabinet secretary to monitor the early release of Indian sailors or vessels hijacked by pirates.
A day after distraught families of sailors taken hostage by Somali pirates sought Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s intervention, the Cabinet Committee on Security met on Friday to map out a strategy to deal with pirates flourishing off the Somali coast.
Minister of state for external affairs Preneet Kaur told Parliament that the CCS approved several measures to address "the legal, administrative and operational aspects" of combating the epidemic in the Gulf of Aden — the world’s most dangerous waters for commercial shipping. Currently, 53 Indian seafarers onboard five different ships remain in the captivity of pirates, who have been emboldened by a string of successful hijackings.
Kaur said the government would intensify diplomatic efforts through consultations with Egypt and UAE where owners of the hijacked merchant vessels reside. She said India would also engage the governments of those countries whose citizens had been taken hostage by the pirates to address the problem.
Kaur said stepping up contact with the owners of the captured vessels also formed part of the government's plan. The inter-ministerial group under the cabinet secretary will chalk out welfare measures for Indian sailors after their release.
The government will also put together suitable standard operating procedures for the Indian Navy and coordination of its activities with international navies carrying out anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden.
The policy framework would involve concerted action by ministries of external affairs, defence and shipping.