Are pirates helping terrorists target India?
The National Investigation Agency is probing the sinister link between terrorists and pirates, reports Vicky Nanjappa
Violent incidents of piracy on oceans across the world have emerged as one of the most worrying trends of recent years. This menace is turning out to be dangerous for India as pirates not only target Indian ships; they also threaten internal security.
Now, the National Investigation Agency has decided to investigate the activities of the 43 Somali pirates who were arrested by the Coast Guard and the Indian Navy near the Lakshwadeep coast almost a month ago.
The decision was taken by the home ministry after sophisticated weapons such as Kalashnikov rifles were found in the pirates' possession.
Image: A file photo of Navy commandos with Somali pirates
Security beefed up along the coast
The NIA's involvement in the probe indicates that the investigators will look into whether the pirates had any links with terrorists.
After the 26/11 terror strike on Mumbai, the sea route emerged as a likely entry point for terrorists trying to cross over to India. But Indian authorities have beefed up security along the coast after that incident.
Post 26/11, the Intelligence Bureau drew up a list of terror operatives and shared it with the Coast Guard as well as the Indian Navy. This has made the job of the security agencies relatively easier.
Image: A file photo of a pirate boat
Terroists may use pirates' help to smuggle arms
According to IB sources, terror groups may try and use the services of pirates, who don't follow any particular ideology. They would be willing to help terrorists if the monetary incentive was attractive enough.
The terror outfits may not use Somali pirates to launch attacks in India, but to smuggle in arms and ammunition to their preferred destinations.
The fact that these pirates are dangerous can be gauged from the fact that last year, as many as 1,000 people have been taken hostage by them and there have been nearly 30 cases of abductions or attempted abductions at sea.
Image: Indian Navy's warship INS Talwar
Terrorists not directly in the line of fire
According to naval officials, these pirates have state-of-the-art equipment like AK-47s, speed boats and even rocket launchers.
During its investigation, the NIA will try to find out whether the pirates have procured such tech-savvy equipment with the help of cash-rich terror networks.
By using the Somali pirates to further their agendas, the terror outfits may be able to smuggle in arms and also manage to stay outside the direct line of fire.
Image: File photo of arms seized from pirates by the Indian Navy
Terrorists want to weaken the Indian State
With an increase in pirate attacks, Indian security forces will be forced to focus their intelligence and manpower in tracking them, thus affecting the campaign against terror outfits.
According to IB sources, terrorists are willing to use any subversive groups as long as they help weaken the Indian State. Dangerous terror groups like the Lashkar-e-Tayiba may offer financial assistance to pirates to carry out their dirty job.
Image: File photo of INS Tabar, which is taking on Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden
Photographs: Indian Navy
Navy gears up to tackle pirates
The silver lining in this bleak scenario is the assurance by the Indian Navy that it is ready to battle pirates who cause mayhem in Indian Ocean. The navy has already deployed personnel, fast attack crafts, choppers and marine commandos to put up a sturdy defence against them.
Security experts warn that the issue should not be taken lightly, as pirates threaten Indian forces on the high seas.
The NIA probe will give Indian security agencies an idea about how pirates manage to operate with such logistical ease and sophisticated armoury.
Image: INS Veer takes part in a mission to foil a hijack attempt by pirates
Photographs: Indian Navy