Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma has made a pitch for putting in place pre-emptive measures to scuttle pirates from developing a nexus with terror groups.
Speaking at an international symposium at New Port, Rhode Island, Verma on Thursday cautioned against the possibility of the "relatively benign" problem of piracy forging links with terrorism, which has a "cancerous potential."
The symposium themed, "Security and Prosperity through Maritime Partnerships," is being organised by the US Naval War College.
Verma highlighted the dilemma being faced by naval forces due to ineffective legal mechanisms to prosecute pirates apprehended by them. He said, "It is estimated that nine out of 10 apprehended pirates benefit from the 'catch and release' policy followed by most navies till now."
India is yet to prosecute more than 100 pirates apprehended by the navy. The country is working on a legislation to declare piracy as an offence under Indian law. In the absence of such a law, pirates apprehended by the navy and coast guard are currently prosecuted for offences such as attempt to murder, criminal trespass and damage to property.
Verma said piracy was no longer mere robbery but had morphed into an elaborate network of operations to extract enormous quantities of ransom. "Ransom amounts have increased to an average of $5.4 million per ship from just $150,000 five years ago," he said.
Verma said international efforts off the Gulf of Aden had resulted in pirates expanding their footprint in the Arabian Sea and prowling closer to Indian shores. He said, "Some of these areas have been not too far from India's Lakshadweep and Mincoy group of islands and this has been a cause of concern to us."