India: Navy May Get More Powers to Fight Piracy on High Seas



UNDER fire from various quarters, including the Opposition, for its failure to effectively deal with Somali pirates, the UPA government is working on a plan to put in place a mechanism to do so.

A committee of secretaries (CoS) headed by Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar is considering a set of proposals aimed at giving adequate legal backing and power to Indian agencies, including the Indian Navy, to fight pirates on high seas and, if they are caught, to bring them to India for putting them on trial under Indian laws.

Sources told The Indian Express that at a meeting of the CoS, held earlier this week, it was pointed out that there is no provision in law currently that allows Indian forces to bring captured pirates to India for standing trial. This, the meeting was told, could be achieved by making appropriate changes to the laws after discussions by an inter-ministerial group.

Another important recommendation that is likely to be made by the CoS is to allow Indian forces engaging pirates during rescue missions or otherwise to use heavy weapons to sink the pirates’ vessel. Sources said another meeting on the issue will be held soon to give a final shape to the recommendations.

The changes will give more teeth to the Indian Navy and Coast Guard that are tasked with dealing with piracy both near Indian waters as well as in the Gulf of Aden where India has maintained an anti-piracy patrol for over two years.

There are also no clear set of rules that empower the Navy to engage or disable pirate vessels in international waters. As per internationally followed norms, the Navy has only been firing at pirate vessels if it comes under attack or if a merchant vessel is in imminent danger of the hijacked. The Navy has sunk three pirate mother vessels only after it came under attack. In case of suspicious vessels found at sea, the Navy has only been disarming the pirates and disabling all ‘piracy triggers’ like excess fuel and boarding ladders before letting them off.


Source: The Indian Express,March 11, 2011;