The European Union has sought India's help to build the maritime capacities of coastal countries in the Horn of Africa to strengthen their ability to fight piracy in the world's most dangerous waters for commercial shipping.
The EU Military Staff (EUMS), which provides military capabilities to the world's largest bloc of trading nations, wants to scale up engagement with the Indian Navy by involving it in a new, EU-led regional maritime capacity building (RMCB) mission covering countries such as Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya and Tanzania.
The basis of the mission being international forces can't be deployed to secure the region forever and ultimately regional states need to take over their responsibilities for maritime security.
EUMS chief Lieutenant General Ton Van Osch said, "We are looking at splitting responsibilities with the Indian Navy to train these countries in maritime security for governing their territorial waters and reinforcing their capacity to fight piracy. In the long run, the western Indian Ocean should be secured by the region itself…"
The EU mobilised against piracy in the Horn of Africa in December 2008 when it launched European Naval Force Somalia (EU NAVFOR) — Op Atalanta. But the operation is under resourced — it comprises just four to seven warships and two to three reconnaissance aircraft at any given time to secure 2.3 million square miles of ocean.
Other players operating in the region include Combined Task Force-151 (an international naval task force), NATO's Operation Ocean Shield and independently deployed navies of countries such as India, Russia and China. All of them together have about 25 warships patrolling the western Indian Ocean at any given time.
Read Admiral Duncan L Potts, who commands EU NAVFOR, said it was extremely difficult to patrol such a vast area with limited resources, making a case for nations to pitch in.
(The writer was in Brussels at the invitation of EU)