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US hails India's role in fight against piracy

Washington, Feb 22 (IANS) US and European Union officials have hailed a key role played by India in the global fight against piracy that has resulted in a remarkable drop in piracy off the coast of Somalia.

“India is a very important member” of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia established in January 2009, Donna Hopkins, counter piracy and maritime security coordinator at the State Department told foreign media Friday.

Since then, the Contact Group has grown to an open and vital architecture of 80 nations and organizations, including the entire spectrum of stakeholders, she said in a briefing on counter piracy with François Rivasseau, deputy head of the European Union delegation to the US.

US has just handed over the chairmanship of the contact group to the European Union.

“There is almost no littoral country, no naval country, and no major shipping country that has not contributed actively to the Contact Group,” Hopkins said describing Russia and China as “two very important actors.”

“The figures speak for themselves,” she said noting, “There has been no piracy hijacking off the coast of Somalia since May 10 2012, over 20 months.”

“This is the lowest rate of attempted hijackings in over six years and certainly since the peak of the crisis in 2011,” Hopkins said.

“No ships are currently held hostage by Somali pirates, although there remain at least 49 hostages whom the international community are working to free.”

Over 1,400 pirates and suspected pirates are in courts or in prisons in 21 countries with the largest number held in India.

“However, there is still much work to be done,” Hopkins said. “The fundamental conditions along the Somali coast have not changed, and if we drop our guard, piracy will return.”

There are three organized multilateral counter-piracy missions: the EU’s NAVFOR Atalanta, NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield, and Combined Maritime Forces Combined Task Force 151.

Then there are a number of independent deployers, including China, Russia, India, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, and South Korea, she said.

The operational commanders of all of these counter-piracy forces meet quarterly in Bahrain on a voluntary and nonpolitical basis to discuss their respective plans and de-conflict their operations.

“This is a remarkable success. It works very well,” Hopkins said. “So piracy is a great uniter because it’s a common enemy. Everybody hates pirates.”

Hopkins said there are 22 to 30 military ships of different nationalities at any given time from “The whole world — And China and Russia and India.”

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