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India a critical partner in anti-piracy efforts: US

April 21, 2012 09:36 IST

India is a critical partner in multilateral efforts to combat piracy, a top US official has said, as he expressed concern over pirates' influence beyond the western Indian Ocean.

"India's a critical partner in our multilateral efforts to combat piracy," Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Political Military Affairs Tom Kelly told media persons at a media conference.

Kelly said both he and his boss, the Assistant Secretary for Political Military Affairs, Andrew Shapiro, have travelled to India recently to talk to Indian counterparts about our shared strategy and efforts to combat piracy.

"Obviously, India is affected in many ways. As a participant in the global economy, obviously, India is also threatened by the pirate attack on international mariners," he said.

"As Indians know very well, a very significant percentage of the hostages taken are Indian citizens, Indian mariners. So the Indian navy and the Indian government have been very active participants in acting against pirates. I believe the Indian Navy has had some encounters with Somali pirates," he said.

Kelly said the pirates' range is expanding beyond the western Indian Ocean to areas in proximity to the western coast of India.

"That's obviously an issue of concern. As the scope for piracy activities by Somali pirates expands, it increases the importance of commercial vessels following best management practices and considering the use of PCASP," he said.

"Because even though we have an unprecedentedly large naval coalition that is participating to try to push back against the pirates, the Indian Ocean is simply too vast of a territory for naval forces alone to be able to control the problem," Kelly said.

Kelly said the international effort against piracy is succeeding very well.

"There has been a 50 per cent reduction just in the last year in this pirate success rate.  That is, when pirates attack ships, they are 50 per cent less likely this year to succeed in taking the vessel over and getting the crew as hostages than they were last year," he said.

"I think, a remarkable accomplishment, and I think, above anything, reflects the value of these best management practices as well as the increasing prevalence of these private armed crews that are on board more and more ships," Kelly said.

There are 225 hostages and nine vessels held by pirates right now.

"Both of these numbers represents a significant reduction from last year, but 225 people held by pirates is still too many.  And so there is many areas in which we need to improve, and that is exactly why we meet so frequently at the multilateral level in the contact group to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia," he said.