Indian Ocean Navies to work out anti-piracy plan

Navies of 35 nations from the Indian Ocean Region will meet next week at Abu Dhabi to debate and chalk out an action plan for anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden.

New Delhi: Navies of 35 nations from the
Indian Ocean Region will meet next week at Abu Dhabi to debate
and chalk out an action plan for anti-piracy operations in the
Gulf of Aden.

The three-day meeting will be held under the aegis of the
Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) initiative of the Indian

The IONS-2010, the second conclave of the Navy Chiefs of
nations from the region including Pakistan, would take place
between May 10 and 12 when the mantle of leadership of the
naval grouping would pass on to UAE Navy Chief from Indian
Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma for a two-year tenure.

"The IONS-2010 will discuss efficiency in anti-piracy
operations (in the Gulf of Aden) where the expertise gained by
the navies in countering piracy threat will be shared and
other means of tackling the menace will be worked out," Navy`s
Assistant Chief (Foreign Cooperation and Intelligence), Rear
Admiral Sudharshan Shrikhande told reporters here today.

This will be the first time the two-year-old grouping
would discuss the threat from the sea brigands, "as piracy was
not a major issue in the region" when IONS met for its
inaugural session in February 2008.

"The meet will discuss means to combine the capacities of
the 35 Navies, including Somalia which is a member, and also
debate what the Navies wanted to do and how to do it (in
anti-piracy efforts)," he added.

Asked if the discussions in Abu Dhabi would lead to the
formation of an Indian Ocean Region Task Force (IONTF) on the
lines of European task force and the US-led Combined Task
force, Shrikhande said it was a futuristic proposition and
since it was the first time the topic was being debated by
the grouping, it could take some time before any plans could
take a concrete shape.

He said IONS-2010 would also debate technical expertise
sharing, intelligence and information sharing among the Navies
of the Indian Ocean Region, apart from cooperation in
Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR).

Among the topics IONS-2010 would discuss include
`Reinforcement of Regional stability and establishment of good
order at sea`, `Cooperative efforts to enhance maritime
security including threats, risks and vulnerabilities`,
`Common maritime security strategy`, and `Regional capacity
building and capability enhancement`.

On the possibility of US, UK and Japan showing keen
interest in joining IONS, Shrikhande said the three nations
had applied recently for observer status and the applications
would be taken up by the Abu Dhabi meet for a decision. China,
however, had not applied for either membership or observer
status, he said.

These countries, Shrikhande said, could not apply for
membership of the grouping as they did not have any territory
in the Indian Ocean region. France was a member of IONS as it
had territory in the region in the form of Reunion Islands,
which was represented in French Parliament.

Giving the example of India being an observer in the West
Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS), he said observers had no
voting rights in the groupings, be it WPNS or IONS.

IONS, an Indian Navy initiative in regional diplomacy,
met first in 2008 when Navy Chiefs of 22 member-nations
attended with another five countries represented by other
naval officers. "We expect a very good attendance in the
IONS-2010 and Abu Dhabi has already sent invite to all the
member countries including Pakistan," Shrikhande said.

On the leadership of the grouping, the Navy officer said
the charter of IONS had mandated that the chairmanship was
rotated among the 35 members.

"Now it has moved to the Gulf region, next it could go to
one of the African nations, then to South East Asia and then
back to South Asia," he said.

Whether Pakistan could become the chairman of IONS,
Shrikhande said, "theoretically and practically yes. It has to
be worked out. Usually, the leadership is passed on through
general consensus."

The UAE, the officer said, had chosen the theme "Together
for Reinforcement of Maritime Security in Indian Ocean".

As a preparation for this year`s meet, the IONS had held
two major events in the last two years such as technical
workshops, essay competitions on "Sustaining the IONS
Initiative -- Practical Solutions" and "Cooperative EEZ
surveillance, options and initiatives" and concept discussions
in India, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Kenya.

Future programmes include another workshop on HADR to be
hosted by Bangladesh Navy in October this year followed by
table-top and naval exercises on the subject, he added.

Shrikhande also said the Indian Navy would achieve a
milestone this month when Commander Dilip Dhonde would
circumnavigate the globe on a sail boat `Mhadei` and return to
Mumbai on May 22.

Dhonde had left Mumbai on August 19 last year and had
sailed alone on his boat covering 21,600 nautical miles and
fulfilling all conditions required to qualify for the record,
he said.

Among the conditions were that the person attempting
circumnavigation of the globe should sail alone on a boat,
should cross all meridians once and the equator twice, not
pass through any channels or straits and should have sailed
through at least three capes -- Cape Horn in South America,
Cape of Good Hope in South Africa and Cape Lee U Win in


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