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Guest Column - Force Magazine
Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum
How prepared is India to tackle piracy on high seas, a major threat to maritime security
Cmde Lalit Kapur (retd)
By Cmde Lalit Kapur (retd)

The recent decision of the Contact Group on Piracy off Somalia (CGPS) to roll back the ‘High Risk Area’ (HRA) from 1 December 2015 has brought cheer to Indian ship-owners and once again re-focused attention on piracy and the difficulties of combating it. Edward Teach, otherwise known as Blackbeard, Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh, Barbarossa, the Barbary pirates and others may have passed into history, but piracy remains a part of the world and has, since the end of the Cold War, re-emerged as one of the numerous non-traditional threats to security. How can it continue to thrive in the modern world, despite all the benefits of technology and international cooperation? How prepared is India to tackle piracy, both in its waters as well as in the region?

There has been no reported incident off Somalia since 2012, even though the so-called HRA still remains centred around that country and ships of numerous nations (including China and India) maintain a standing patrol in the Red Sea. A cursory glance at the live piracy map maintained by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) shows three global hot spots: Central America and the Caribbean; the Gulf of Guinea on the West Coast of Africa; and the Malacca/Singapore Straits region. To understand why it continues to flourish, there is a need to understand three linked issues: the nature of the maritime environment that covers 71 per cent of the Earth’s surface; what piracy is; and finally what are the enforcement and judicial mechanisms available to tackle it.

The maritime environment first. Those not familiar with it routinely transpose their understanding of combating crime on land to the sea, without realising how fundamentally the sea differs from land. An example may help clarify. Shortly after the monsoon in 2009, when your author was running operations of the Offshore Defence Advisory Group (ODAG) located at Mumbai, the Command Headquarters advised us that high level intelligence representatives of our law enforcement apparatus would be visiting HQ ODAG and all possible help should be extended to them.

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