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Arabian Sea

“There are close to 140 Private Security Companies operating in the North Indian Ocean, which hire out Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel or PCASP,” said navy chief, Admiral DK Joshi, adding, “It has obvious security implications for us, including infiltration of terrorists.”

India is lining up INS Shankush, a Shishumar class diesel electric submarine, while the British have brought their Trafalgar class nuclear-powered submarine for the week-long Exercise Konkan.

According to naval sources, pirates were attempting to hijack the Panama-flagged MV (Merchant Vessel) Full City, owned and crewed by Chinese nationals, 40 nautical miles (over 830 kilometers) west of the Indian Naval base of Karwar.

The serial commandeering of Indian dhows by pirates in the Arabian Sea around the Gulf of Aden recently, has put the focus on the vulnerability of these vessels to hijack, especially with their flagrant flouting of guidelines, which also facilitates the endangering of other innocent shipping.

Agenda check: The US Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Gary Roughead is to arrive in New Delhi on Sunday.

The proximity of the country to the Indian island cluster of Lakshadweep makes it important for coastal security. The Maldives can also offer India logistics support and extend the Indian naval footprint and significantly, by offering their facilities, can extend the Indian maritime airspace surveillance capability.

A squadron of four ships is on an extensive tour of ports in the Arabian Sea, Red Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic Ocean, North Sea and the Baltic Sea. The ships will also conduct major exercises with Russia, the UK and France.

While the Indian Navy has every right to arrest pirates anywhere on the high seas, the problem of what to do with them is one that many countries have been struggling with since the upsurge in piracy in the Gulf of Aden.

Reports of piracy are suppressed because shipping companies would not like this route to be perceived to be too dangerous as this would drive up their insurance costs and force them to either go around the Cape of Good Hope or cross the Pacific Ocean as well as cause them problems in recruiting crews and shipping companies put their own ships at risk by refusing to be escorted by international naval ships in convoys because of additional costs and delays.

There was utter confusion at the Ministry of Defense with no one willing to take responsibilty for a decision on the situation leaving the Navy exasperated and furious.