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Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Does the West expect India to be their policeman for free in the Indian Ocean?

"Oceans Beyond Piracy" (OBP) held a 2-day seminar in Delhi on the 18th and 19th of November 2011, of which the first day was open to a larger audience while the second day was only for stake-holders.

On day-1, the speakers included the representatives of OBP and facilitators from the United Nations, as well as senior people from the Indian, Bangladesh and Sri Lankan Navies. The absence of anybody from the Indian shipping companies was indeed surprising. There were, however, many representatives of the foreign shipping company agents present in India, including people from FOSMA and MASSA companies.

OBP is a privately funded effort by a Somali origin resident of the US, who is trying to get stake-holders to do their bit in a larger holistice view of ground realities in and around the Horn of Africa. The focus is, also, on relieving the NATO, EUNAVFOR and US forces in the area if possible to look after other pressing issues in the region.

A call was made for the Indian Navy to take on more of a role. However, simple fact remains, a large proportion of the ships transitting the piracy areas and at risk are flying "Flag of Convenience" and by rights it is the responsibility of their flag states to provide security to them. This is the big issue - because most ships plying on FOC basis are owned by companies registered in tax havens - but it is the tax-payers money which is supposed to foot the bill.

There is a mis-match here somewhere which was brought out on the sidelines of the event. The Western world, with its own disputed base at Diego Garcia, can not expect the Indian Navy to play policeman for free in what is essentially a global issue - the issue of rampant FOC ships owned by owners hiding behind tax havens plying the trade lanes.

Well meaning initiative seemingly backed strongly by the US Government, but it has to be fair to other Governments and people in the Indian Ocean, also.

More about OBP here:-

Photographs are available here in reverse chronological order:-

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