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Hot pursuit the way to go?

For many young Indians, piracy is about Captain Jack Sparrow and his Pirates of the Caribbean film series. It’s not about Indians actually being taken hostage on the high seas, writes Amit Baruah.

india Updated: Oct 02, 2008 00:45 IST
Amit Baruah

For many young Indians, piracy is about Captain Jack Sparrow and his Pirates of the Caribbean film series. It’s not about Indians actually being taken hostage on the high seas.

Piracy. Somalia. A distant issue, which hardly concerned people here. But when 18 Indians, part of the MT Stolt Valor crew, were taken hostage by Somalian pirates on September 15, the country had to take notice.

It’s over a fortnight since then. It’s cold comfort that they are not the only ones. Currently 12 ships, with over 200 crew members are being held hostage by these pirates, who are demanding millions of dollars in ransom money.

So what can India do? Should it emulate the French, who freed two nationals by launching a military operation against the pirates who hijacked their boat in the Gulf of Aden on September 2?

As India considers a response, ships of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet are off the Somalian coast, watching the negotiations between the pirates and owners of the MV Faina, which carries a Kenya-bound cargo of Ukranian T-72 tanks.

“We don’t want the cargo to get into wrong hands. We want this to end peacefully,” Lt. Nate Christensen, deputy public affairs officer of the fleet, told HT from Bahrain. Will the US launch military operations? “No one nation can solve the problem…our warships are in the area. I don’t want to speculate...,” said Christensen.

It looks highly unlikely that India will send its navy to free the hostages. At the same time, the demand for a more robust response from the government can only grow. Defence Minister AK Antony has taken a cautious approach, conscious, perhaps, of the fact that such an operation will be far from simple. But, the UN Special Representative on Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, believes that the line has been crossed following the seizure of the MV Faina. “This can’t and will not be allowed to continue,” he said in a statement on Tuesday. It’s possible that India might feel comfortable in a new, multilateral arrangement to combat piracy.