India deploys warships to guard Somalia waters
India has deployed its navy in the Gulf of Aden near Somalia to protect Indian commercial vessels from pirates as 18 Indian sailors were being held captive by Somali pirates, news reports said Friday.
A warship, INS Tabar, has started patrolling the Gulf of Aden and the number of ships would be increased, a Defence Ministry official told the Times of India newspaper.
The decision came after Somali pirates on September 15 hijacked a Japanese-owned merchant vessel, MV Stolt Valor, which had 18 Indians among its 22 sailors on board, reported dpa.
The move to guard the African waters was prompted after protests by the sailors' families seeking their release.
Officials said the warships would be deployed between Salalah, Oman, and Aden, Yemen.
"The Gulf of Aden provides access to the Suez Canal, through which a sizable portion of India's trade flows," the official told the Times.
"The Indian Navy's presence in the area will help to protect our sea-borne trade and instill confidence in our sea-faring community as well as function as a deterrent for pirates," he added.
The presence on the warships of helicopters and marine commandos, trained for combat missions, indicated the possibility of a mission being mounted to rescue the 18 Indians.
But Defence Ministry officials denied that such an operation was being planned.
The Indian Navy has been worried over the increasing incidents of piracy off the Somali coast and has been keen to play a bigger anti-piracy role under the United Nations.
In July, the UN's World Food Programme appealed to global naval powers to help protect ships carrying life-saving assistance from pirate attacks, saying that as many as 2 million Somalis could go hungry without the aid.
Somalia, which has been witnessing civil strife for years, has not had a national government since the early 1990s. Somalia's coastline has been identified by the International Maritime Bureau as the area with the highest risk of piracy in the world.