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Vipin asked: What are the different measures taken by the Indian Government to combat piracy in the Indian Ocean? How can piracy be eradicated from the Indian Ocean Region?

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  • S.S. Parmar replies: The measures taken by the Indian Government can be viewed at three levels. Firstly, operationally via kinetic means, by deploying naval ships with armed helicopters to patrol the piracy prone areas. Secondly, in the international arena, by participating in the various multilateral fora that have been set up to combat piracy, and thirdly, internally by taking steps to arrest and prosecute pirates and strengthen the fight against piracy via a piracy bill.

    Operationally, the Indian Navy commenced anti piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden from October 2008. Indian Naval ships operate independently and are not part of the multinational forces that operate in the area. In order to achieve a high degree of cooperation with other maritime forces, India is an active participant of various cooperative mechanisms like “Shared Awareness and De-confliction (SHADE)” that have been established to facilitate sharing of information. In addition, India, Japan and China (all three nations operate independently) have agreed to coordinate patrols thereby ensuring an effective and optimum use of the combined maritime assets to escort ships, especially in the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor established for use by all merchant ships in the Gulf of Aden. The Director General Shipping has launched a web-based registration service where merchant ships can register with DG Shipping in order to avail of the escort facility provided by Indian Naval ships in the Gulf of Aden.

    Due to the spread of piracy in the Indian Ocean, Indian Naval and Coast Guard ships have also been deployed in piracy prone areas nearer the Indian coast. As a result, around 1000 plus ships of various nationalities have been escorted and around 40 piracy attacks prevented by Indian forces deployed in these areas. At the international level, India continues to take up the issue of piracy and its attendant ramifications at various fora and advocates steps to be adopted by the international community. Internally, India arrests and prosecutes pirates as per the laws of the land, a weak point as of now as there is no specific penal code that addresses the issue of piracy. In arresting and prosecuting pirates, India is one of the few nations that do so. In order to strengthen the fight against piracy, a piracy bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha during the 15th session in April 2012. The bill post enactment should, amongst other aspects, give the required boost to the legal system to prosecute pirates.

    Piracy can be eradicated by addressing the root causes, an aspect well recognised by the international community. The root cause of piracy in the Indian Ocean lies on land i.e., the instability in Somalia. Addressing this issue requires an international understanding and sustained effort.