The Indian Navy has been effectively combating piracy off the coast of Somalia since 2008, with increased efforts in recent years. On February 2, 2024, Indian naval aircraft swiftly intervened to thwart an assault on the Iranian fishing vessel FV Omaril by Somali pirates. INS Sharda, specialized in anti-piracy operations, successfully compelled the pirates to release the vessel and its crew unharmed.
Continued Anti-Piracy Operations
Earlier, on January 30, 2024, the Indian Navy conducted two anti-piracy operations in the Arabian Sea. The Indian ship Sumitra rescued crews from two hijacked vessels, while another operation led to the rescue of a fishing vessel and its crew from Somali pirates. These actions highlight the Navy’s commitment to maritime security, particularly in regions like the Gulf of Aden and the Horn of Africa.
Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt recently informed Parliament about the Navy’s proactive engagement with regional and international maritime forces to combat piracy. He highlighted seven reported incidents of vessel hijackings in the past three years, emphasizing the Navy’s role in restoring maritime security.
Naval Deployments and Strategies
To enhance maritime security, the Indian Navy has increased the presence of ships and conducted aerial surveillance in critical areas like the Central Arabian Sea and off the East Coast of Somalia. Interrogation of fishing vessels and dhows is also conducted to maintain security in the region.
Commodore Anil Jai Singh underscores the economic importance of maritime security, noting that disruptions due to piracy can lead to significant economic losses, including higher insurance rates for trade vessels.
Indian Navy’s Escort Missions
The Indian Navy escorts merchant ships through the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) in the Arabian Sea, deploying a significant number of warships, including destroyers and frigates, for this purpose.
Historical Naval Engagements
Since 2008, the Indian Navy has been actively engaged in anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden and the East Coast of Africa. Over the years, thousands of ships and seafarers have been safely escorted, demonstrating India’s commitment to maritime security.
India’s Maritime Importance
Given India’s extensive coastline, navigable waterways, and numerous ports, maritime security is vital for various activities such as trade, energy importation, tourism, and fishing.
India has forged strategic partnerships with littoral and island nations in the Indian Ocean region to enhance security cooperation. For instance, India has provided financial assistance and support for security infrastructure projects to countries like Mauritius, Maldives, and Sri Lanka.
Challenges from China
With growing Chinese influence in the region, India faces challenges in maintaining its strategic interests. The Maldives’ willingness to engage with China and potentially host a naval watch post poses a concern for India’s security interests in the Indian Ocean.
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