The government is actively negotiating to secure the release of all Indians who have been held hostage by Somali pirates, top officials said on Saturday. As many as 53 Indians are still hostage on five ships commandeered by pirates.
The Indian government is in touch with the owners of these ships, three of which are Panamanian and one each flying the Maltese and Italian flags. “The negotiations are very delicate but going well,” officials said. The safety and security of Indians is the priority of the government, they said.
Indian envoys in Egypt and the UAE are also working along with their counterparts in other countries. The sources also said the Indian Navy, in coordinated action with naval forces of other countries, has been able to bring down the number of incidents of attacks on ships in the Gulf of Aden, where the Somali pirates operate. The sources said that the Indian Navy is escorting ships along the Gulf of Aden route along with warships from China, Japan and Korea. All these countries have merchant ships which carry industrial goods for the Western markets.
It was also revealed that the government has set up a 24x7 monitoring centre that keeps track of all Indian ships, which have been equipped with a distress signal so that naval ships can be alerted in case of attack by pirates.
The government is also working on a law against piracy, sources said, which will make it easier to prosecute hijackers. Such a legislation is planned in the wake of pirates operating further off from the Somali coast. A few recent incidents of piracy have taken place about 250 nautical miles away from the Indian coast.