Joint Indo-Saudi effort mooted against pirates

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  1. ejazr

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    http://www.sunday-guardian.com/investigation/joint-indo-saudi-effort-mooted-against-pirates
    SIRAJ WAHAB Riyadh | 17th Apr
    Indian Navy Vice Admiral K.N. Sushil has called for joint and sustained efforts to contain and eliminate the scourge of piracy off the coast of Somalia.

    He was speaking onboard the Indian naval ship INS Tir that was recently anchored in the Saudi port of Jubail along with the INS Krishna and ICGS Veera as part of a goodwill visit to Saudi Arabia.

    "This is a vast ocean," he said while referring to the Arabian Sea. "Just south of here is the Somali coast...to patrol such a large area we all need to pool in our resources."

    The senior naval commander referred to the 2008 Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) initiative, which sought to increase maritime cooperation among navies of the world.

    "This is not a formal pact but an informal one. We started it to see how we can cooperate in keeping the ocean safe. It received an overwhelming response. Saudi Arabia is part of this initiative," he said.

    Describing the challenges of piracy, he said the pirates off the Somali coast are highly adaptive. "If you patrol the Somali coast, the pirates then move somewhere else. As we speak, they have gone very close to Lakshadweep Island. And when we challenge them in Lakshadweep they go down to Madagascar."

    (On Friday, Somali pirates took in a multimillion-dollar ransom, then released one of the ships but kept all the Indian crew members as hostages. They told The Associated Press the Indian crew members' hostage ordeal is being prolonged in retaliation for the arrests of more than 100 Somali pirates by the Indian Navy last month. "We decided to keep the Indians because India is holding our colleagues," they said. "We released the other crew members who sailed away from our coast. We will keep these Indians until the Indians release our colleagues.")

    According to Admiral Sushil no one nation can battle piracy single-handedly. "Unless everybody pools in a bit, we will not be able to overcome this scourge. Therefore, we need to broaden the horizon and come to the understanding that this ocean area belongs to all of us and it is in our mutual interest to keep it safe as much as we can." He said 14 navies of the world are conducting anti-piracy patrols along the Somali coast. "Their effectiveness is not what we think should happen with such application of force. Even larger navies are finding it difficult to contain this menace. All this underlines the need for a greater maritime cooperation."

    Admiral Sushil described the Saudi Navy as one of the finest in the world. "In terms of cadre and in terms of equipment, they are among the best, no doubt," he said.

    Indian Ambassador Talmiz Ahmad said that the visit of the naval ships was part of a regular engagement that India has with the Gulf region. "The Indian Navy has always been on goodwill visits here in order to affirm our presence and our deep interest in what is happening here in this region," he said. "We have enduring interests. They are linked with our energy interests, our economic interests, and the presence of our community."

    He said India is in the process of developing a strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia to improve political, security, defense, economic and cultural ties. "These visits are important because they indicate the Indian interest here, they show our technology and various other capabilities that we have developed. There is a deep interest in what we have and what we have to show to the host country."

    The Saudi-India defense ties will see an upswing in coming days with the visit in early May of Defense Minister A.K. Antony. "We are looking forward to the visit of A.K. Antony where many of the ideas that have been expressed at various levels since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's 2010 visit will be given concrete shape."

    The ambassador pointed out the two countries used to have goodwill visits at the level of service chiefs, but now there is going to be a coordinated and comprehensive approach in this area for the two countries' mutual benefit.

    "We are looking at training programs and joint exercises and dialogue at different levels on issues of common interest. All of this has emerged from an understanding that both sides share that we have common interest with regard to security in a troubled neighborhood," he said, and added that a new era of Indo-Saudi strategic partnership was taking shape beyond what was agreed in the Riyadh Declaration.
     
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