H C Singh

Somali Pirates and Unsuccessful Efforts to stop Piracy by European and UN and India’s concern

In March 2010 an Indian merchant ship was high jacked by Somali pirates and all the crew members and helpers of various categories were taken hostages. They have been suffering for the last one year. Some have died, some are struggling as they are kept like prisoners and are denied even normal treatment of a prisoner. This problem of the Indian suffering in Somalia was brought to light on 16th February 2011 in a discussion on T.V. wherein parents of a couple of hostages were present and were virtually and naturally often crying, saying that they have met secretaries of defense, home and foreign affairs but there has been little response but no action all these months. They were questioning: Are they not Indians? If they are why no action has been taken to get their release. If the pirates, as from all countries whose ships have been pirated, demand ransom why it has not been negotiated and decided over a year. It is authoritatively learnt that since 2005, in particular, there has been much increase in pirate activities. During 2010 alone there have been more than 200 attacks by pirates compared to only 35 during 2005.Ransom paid during 2010 touched 238 million US Dollars, approximately 5 million dollar per ship. Why did India not negotiate and pay 4 to 5 million dollars and got the ship and hostages back to India within a month of capture of Indian ship, though a merchant ship. Total ransom would not have been more than 16 to 20 crores of Rupees. When upto 2010 because of dozen or so scams lakhs of crores have cost the country?

For instance if a son of minister, MP, MLA or close relation of civil servant had been one of the hostage of these pirates would the government have waited for a year to even negotiate his release? Certainly not. It is even now incumbent on the central government to take urgent steps, negotiate with Somali Pirates and pay the ransom decided to get the release of Indian hostages suffering for more than a year. As under our democratic constitution all Indians are equal whether they are high officials, politicians of States, whether they are rich or poor, it is hoped that Government of India will take urgent steps to bring back the Indians suffering as hostages for year and also wipe the tears from the eyes of their parents.

A fortnight back India captured about 30 Somali Pirates near Kerala and Sri Lanka Coast and they are kept as prisoners and are treated well like other prisoners, and even better, because Indian government is hopeful of getting Indian hostages from Somali Pirates in exchange to those captured and held by India. But Somali pirates have little respect or even concern for human life that is why there has been no progress in this respect. Somali pirates main concern in getting ransom in million of dollars or equivalent for each ship captured. So government of India may think seriously on this aspect and go ahead to pay ransom like other countries of 200 ships captured by these pirates, and get the Indian hostages released and back home in India and to their families.

Now about some facts about Somali pirates, their land, their culture, source of livelihood and of East African Countries which are their neighbors. International and UN effort and also effort by European Union have not been so far successful except in getting European and some other countries hostages released after payment of ransom without much delay. Somalia and adjacent Pirate region of Puntland wherefrom the pirates come are located in the Gulf of Aden, north east coast of Africa. Close to Somalia is Kenya, and Ethiopia. Of the east African countries adjoining Somalia and coast controlled by pirates from where they operate only Kenya has coast. The other two countries viz Somaliland and Ethiopia are landlocked and are helpless. As pirates don’t touch Kenyan boats or ships and also as Kenyan Navy is not strong enough to intervene stop the piracy adjoining their coast and sea extending to hundreds of nautical miles. During and up to 2008 their area of piracy was quite small but it has from 2008 to 2010 extended many time more. In spite of all the efforts made by European and other powerful countries, instead of stopping piracy from year 2000, piracy by Somali pirates has become much greater threat as pirates have from 2008 onward better equipped bigger ships.

So far there has been absolute failure in controlling Somalia pirates and their piracy. Why? How the piracy started and got impetus? A decade or so back, foreign travelers, mostly unlicensed, were dumping toxic waste close to Somali coast as the weak Somali State could not protect its coast and in response to fishermen whose livelihood depended on fisheries, in response they started high-jacking foreign trawlers and even ships and got into the habit of getting ransom. Dumping of toxic waste stopped but piracy got momentum. Centre of pirates and piracy became adjoining to Somalia in the semi autonomous region of Punta-land. According to UN estimates annual ransom due to piracy was between 5 to 7 billion US dollars in 2010. i.e. between 20,000 and 30,000 crores in a year. Adjoining state of Somalia itself gets lot of foreign exchange to improve their economy and mode of living. Of course the pirates and the great beneficiaries of piracy and are enjoying the most without loss of their lives and boats and ships. Countries like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Arab countries up to Yemen are unable to end the piracy where UN and European countries and even USA, which have greater resources like naval ships equipped best in the world ships and resources to decide firmly to end piracy by whatever means including negotiations at highest UN level and promise to give financial help to compensate fully the loss due to end of piracy and loss of ransom money in billion of dollars.

February 28, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

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