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An Indian “blunder” off Somalia?

Photo credit: Indian Navy

(B2) We remember that the Indian navy proclaimed that it had fired and sunk, on November 18, a pirate “mother ship” which had made “hostile gestures”. According to the Indian press, this version is not entirely accurate.

The sunken boat is in fact a Thai fishing boat, according to the owner of the “Ekawat Nava 5”, Wicharn Sirichaiekawat, who spoke on a news channel. “It was not a pirate mothership. But a boat hijacked the same morning by pirates, who wanted to take it to Somalia.” “Of the 16 crew members, one survived, one died, and 14 people are missing.” The surviving member drifted for six days before being picked up by a ship and hospitalized in Yemen. This version should now be verified.

The Indian Navy maintains its version in any case “When the Tabar demanded that it be stopped for inspection, the pirates threatened to destroy the Indian ship. Pirates were seen on the upper deck of this ship with guns and rocket launchers. He threatened to shoot INS Tabar”, says the ministry. The Indian frigate then returned fire, setting fire to the boat, “explosions on board were heard".

If this version is to be taken into account, we can still wonder why the Indian warship did not check that there were survivors on board – who could be fished out or saved. In this case it would be a violation of the law of the sea, with failure to assist a person in danger.

In any case, it illustrates the difficulty that the ships of Operation Eunavfor Atalanta will face. How can we act quickly and safely for crews, while showing discernment and proportionality in the response given? What can be done to “neutralize” pirates without resorting to the most deadly fate? The most “radical” action is not automatically the most effective…


Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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