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Growing India-China-Japan and South Korea Cooperation in Anti-Piracy Patrols

Monday, December 24th, 2012

Last year thirty five innocent people lost their lives after being taken as hostages by Somali pirates. The International Maritime Bureau also recorded high levels of violence in coastal waters around East Africa and the Gulf of Aden.The total amount of goods succumbing o piracy in this region was about US$160 million in 2011 alone, and according to the One Earth Future Foundation that reported, much of this cash was used to build sprawl- ng new villas and purchase swanky 4x4 ehicles. Somali pirates now have huge par- es and can spend thousands of dollars on weddings in their communities.

It has been calculated that more than 0,000 ships pass through the waters in he area vulnerable to attacks from Somali irates. All those involved in the shipping usiness are unhappy with the fact that in- ernational law is not clear on how much orce can be used to stop the often brutal at- acks by these plunderers. The situation has ecome more grim as these pirates have be- un to kidnap innocent people and do not esitate to attack the tourists and journal- sts in Somalia and Kenya.

It is estimated that the global shipping ndustry lost about US$5.6 billion last year ue to maritime piracy of the Somali coast. igures available from European Union Na- al Force Somalia, ICC International Marine ureau, indicate that pirates earned an av- rage of $4.87 million per ship in 2011. About 3,000 to 5,000 pirates actively op- rate in the region. One thousand have been aptured and are going through complex egal processes in 21 nations. The plight of hips has raised a global alarm, and in addi- on to the navies of several countries, new rivate security companies have come up in he market to offer protection to those who ass through the region. Ships willing to ay anything between US$20,000 – $30,000 re provided with private security services elivered by experienced and well equipped x-Navy troops.

Fight Against a Common Goal

India increased its anti-piracy efforts in 2008 and is now committed to fight the pi- rates. It has deployed a warship in the Gulf of Aden to provide protection to both Indi- an and foreign ships that pass through the area. The Indian Navy is also dedicated to this cause and has ships in place near Mau- ritius, the Seychelles and the Maldives. Deployment of more ships is on the cards and an Inter-Ministerial Group has been formed by the Indian government that ne- gotiates with the hijackers. This group also coordinates with vessel owners and other countries, as well as making efforts to free Indians who are taken hostages by Somali pirates. Last year, the Indian Navy succeed- ed in intercepting a pirate mother ship, and managed to rescue 13 crew members in a major operation. 61 arrests were made about 600 nautical miles off the western coast.

Somali pirates held more than 60 Indian sailors as hostages in the summer of 2012. The attack created a furor in India, driving President of Puntland state Abdirahman Mohammed Mohamud Farole to come to India to discuss a naval capacity building deal with key personnel. The Puntland state supported the military rescue operations to free the Indian hostages and fight piracy as best as they could.

“I always support military operations to fight piracy,” Farole told reporters at the Indian Council for World Affairs (ICWA) at Sapru House in New Delhi. “The Puntland government strongly and consistently re- jects ransom payments, believing them to be the primary factor fuelling piracy attacks. We believe that expensive naval patrols off the coast of Somalia cannot eradicate piracy alone, as long as the world continues to ne- glect the domestic conditions that produce piracy.” China joined the Gulf of Aden anti-piracy patrols in late 2008 and has guarded Chi- nese ships as well as escorted ships of all nationalities. It now closely cooperates with the navies of both Japan and India in anti- piracy patrols off the coast of Somalia. The country is very willing to work with other countries to safeguard global trade through its two warships and a fleet tanker in the Gulf of Aden.

Earlier this year, Somali pirates hijacked a Chinese cargo ship in the Sea of Oman. Rescue ships from the China and Iran Navy managed to save all of the ship’s 28 crew members in a joint operation. Yu Hong- yang, Chinese ambassador to Iran, said, “Thanks to joint efforts of China and Iran, the freighter Xianghuamen was successful- ly rescued at about 18:30 local time and all 28 Chinese crew members aboard are safe and sound. The hijacking was a surprise and occurred far from China, which made our rescue efforts difficult.”

Japan also joined India and China to combat Somali pirates mainly because most of its oil is imported from the Middle East and its economy is heavily dependent on its exports. It works with the two countries and has deployed its warships to patrol the 890-km-long and 92-km-wide zone that ex- tends eastwards from the Red Sea to the Arabian Sea. Two Japanese warships and a maritime patrol plane operate off Djibouti close to Somalia.

Japan has considerably suffered in the hands of Somali pirates. The country has been challenged with this issue for a long time now and even had to pay a significant amount in ransom to get its ships released. The situation took a bad turn in 2008 when Somali pirates captured a total of five of its ships. All these episodes have shaken the Japanese shipping companies, and all have welcomed Japan’s decision to fight piracy.

The Fourth Partner

China, India and Japan are now joined by South Korea, which had previously been op- erating independently in the pirate-infested waters. Now all four nations will coordinate anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia. These nations will use their war- ships to escort cargo vessels in the danger area.

Like other countries, South Korea too has had its share of attacks from Somali pirates who have targeted about eight Korean ves- sels since 2006. “South Korea has indicated its interest in join the tri-nation effort that was launched in February this year,” a se- nior Indian Navy officer told the press. “The proposal from Seoul is likely to be approved by the three nations and the Korean war- ships may join the coordinated patrol from July.”

Although South Korea has showed in- terest in cooperation this year, it has been fighting a war against Somali pirates for some time now. In 2011, it assigned spe- cial forces to stage an early morning res- cue operation of a hijacked freighter hun- dreds of miles off the coast of Somalia. “This operation demonstrated our gov- ernment’s strong will that we won’t toler- ate illegal activities by pirates anymore,” said President Lee in an article by the Yon- hap News Agency. “Our military carried out the operation perfectly under difficult circumstances. I appreciate it and send a message of encouragement.”

Root of the Problem

Somali pirates know they are being searched by war ships out in the water and they now do all they can to avoid being tracked down, constantly moving around, changing phone numbers, etc. It is diffi- cult to trace them and they typically avoid discussing their lives with journalists. Despite all the odds, Jay Bahadur, the author of ‘Deadly Waters: Inside the Hid- den World of Somalia’s Pirates’, met just such a pirate, named Abdullahi Abshir. This man claims to have hijacked more than 25 ships in the Gulf of Aden, and he talked to Bahadur, emphasizing that despite all that has been written about them, Somali pirates are not murderers, but rather they only attack ships for the money. It is hard to believe when a pirate says he is not a murderer, but the grow- ing rate of piracy in the regions has made many countries sit up and try to figure out and correct the root cause of the problem of Somalia’s pirates. A MaritimeSecurity. Asia article says that this military opera- tion is only tackling the symptoms and ef- forts should be made to help Somalia get back on its feet and develop normal politi- cal and social structures.

Apparently, there are some who can see the other side of the story as the European Union has already invested about 400 mil- lion Euros ($US480 million) into long term aid projects in Somalia meant to be used for education and setting up a functioning legal system there. The situation of the country is also expected to be improved by political efforts and the establishment of a new constitution.

In an interview to GlobalPost earlier this year, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, Soma- lia’s prime minister, said that the Somali pirates are driven to do these deeds be- cause of plunder by international trawl- ers, which has taken away the means of livelihood from the country’s fishermen. They are, in turn, pushed to take desper- ate measures because of the illegal, un- reported, and unregulated fishing off the coast of Somalia, said Ali.

“This is a fact, this is not something we are making up. And this is how piracy started,” said Ali. “I’m not condoning the hijacking of ships off Somalia but … if we’re going to address piracy we should address both piracies.” Ali also criticized “the toxic waste dumping in our coastal waters.”


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