India offers to employ Somali pirates in projects
Foreign Minister SM Krishna says this is the best way to keep the pirates occupied
After offering jobs and other incentives to the stone-pelting youth of Kashmir, New Delhi has now offered to entice the increasingly notorious Somali pirates by engaging them in projects and creating jobs for them in Somalia.
The pirates have become a major threat to international shipping since 2000, when the second phase of the Somali civil war began.
The International Maritime Organisation and the World Food Programme have said in reports that increasing incidents of piracy have contributed to an increase in shipping costs and have impeded the delivery of food aid shipments.
India’s Minister for External Affairs SM Krishna, who a few days ago held talks with visiting Somali Deputy Prime Minister Abdiweli Ali, had said job-generating projects in Somalia would help tackle piracy.
“We have suggested to the Somali government through its Deputy Prime Minister that they should endeavour to create more jobs by taking up projects which the Government of India would be willing to help in implementing," Krishna had said.
New Delhi believes that such projects should employ young men and women especially in coastal areas where piracy is rampant.
"I did bring about the issue of 53 of our hostages with the pirates. And I have requested the good offices of the Somali transitional government be used for the release of these Indian hostages," Krishna had said after the talks. He added that Ali has assured him everything possible would be done to get the Indian hostages released.
New Delhi thinks Somalia is willing to work with India to tackle the menace and that Ali believes the piracy stems out of social restlessness and unemployment, which is very high in Somalia.
“A concern I shared with him was the menace of piracy carried out by the Somali pirates. He agreed it is a matter of grave concern to them also and they are willing to cooperate with India to work out a strategy to tackle the problem,” Krishna had said.
On piracy, Ali said, “It is a great international menace. And we have to have a common strategy and a common front against this menace.”
“The piracy has not only become a Somali problem but also a regional problem and now an international problem. So the solution does not lie with just the Somali government," Ali added.
On Indian hostages, Ali said, “My government will not reserve any efforts to bring them back to their families. We are trying our level best to bring them back safe and sound to India.”
On the 100+ Somali pirates under custody in India, Krishna said the law of the land would take its own course.
The heavy concentration of the world’s navies around the Gulf of Eden has pushed the pirates into wider oceans. Now that they use mother ships and then the skiffs, they are able to cover a wider area further away from land.
So far 53 Indians are in the custody of pirates captured from five ships, MV Iceberg—Panamian Flag, MV Suez—Panamian Flag, MT Asphalt Venture—Panamian Flag, MT Savina Caylyn—Italian Flag and MV Sinin—Maltese Flag.
India has deployed a war ship in the Gulf of Aden to escort Indian shipping interests since 2008. The Ministry of External Affairs says so far 124 Indians have been released, 21 in 2008, 34 in 2009, 56 in 2010 and 13 in 2011.
Iftikhar Gilani is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.com.