April 04, 2013

Oblivious ignorance

After you read this, perhaps you should read ‘Wolf at the door’ published in the same column some four years ago, in September 2009. Or perhaps not. No point aggravating your hypertension along with mine. 

The allegations of the Indian crew aboard the tanker ‘Royal Grace’- who were released unexpectedly last month after a year in Somali pirate captivity- come as no surprise to me. The 17 Indians claimed, after the ship docked safely at Salalah, that the Grace hijack was an inside job. That the Pakistani Chief Engineer’s behaviour was very suspicious- he was well stocked with food, toiletries and cigarettes and was well prepared for a long hijack. That he was the only one allowed by the pirates to stay in his own cabin throughout the year that the ship was held captive. That he was given other preferential treatment. That some of the well trained pirates were even speaking in Urdu. 

Forget the Pakistani connection coming as no surprise to me; it will come as no surprise to the so called international community, the Indian Government and its navy- or to anybody else in the business who has not spent the last five years with his (or her, to be politically correct for once) head buried in the sand.

From the Indian newsmagazine India today, four years ago, September 2009:
“Pakistan has found Somali sea pirates as the new tools in its covert war against India, the Indian Navy confirmed on Tuesday. From jihad factories in Pakistan to pirate terror off the Gulf of Aden, Pakistan's hidden war against India has been crossing the seas”.
“Nine months ago (my comment- which would put it sometime in late 2008 or early 2009) the Indian Navy patrol ships found material evidence of Pakistan's sinister plot. Most of the weapons used by the Somali brigands bore the stamp of Pakistani ordnance factories. The rocket-propelled grenade launcher and the rifles seized from the boat were all made-in-Pakistan. Even the magazines recovered had Pak ordnance factory tags”.

Also in 2009 (September, from my “Wolf at the door”)- “On the 28th of April this year, the warship Admiral Panteleyev received a distress call 120 km east of the Somali coast from the Antigua registered tanker Bulwai Bank under attack by pirates. The Russians sent in commandos who foiled the attempt and tracked a mother ship that was giving directions to the criminals. When they arrested this vessel, they found that it was an Iranian trawler whose six man crew had been taken hostage earlier. The trawler was now in command of Pakistani national Mohammed Zamal, who threw his satellite phone overboard when the commandos stormed the mother ship”.

“Among those arrested were 12 Pakistanis and 11 Somalis. A large cache of arms was also recovered, including Kalashnikovs and handguns. The Russians later said that the Pak nationals, identified so by identity cards they were carrying, were well trained in military and naval tactics”.

August 2011, two years ago, from the Times of India: It is now official (my comment- now? Ha ha and ha): Somali pirates are being trained in Pakistan to carry out a proxy war against India… the evidence was obtained from nine foreign nationals caught from a hijacked Iranian vessel - MV Nafis-1, by the Indian Navy 170 nautical miles off Mumbai on August 14. Gujarat customs officials had seized a large quantity of food items from the vessel and also found that rice packets and juice pouches bore names of Pakistani companies with addresses written in Urdu… also recovered two AK-47s, a pistol and a cache of foreign currency including $ 86,000 and 1,500 Saudi Riyals”. 

Without wasting any more time Quad Erat Demonstranduming out here, let me make my point about the dangers of the world refusing to link terrorism with piracy- which is what everybody is doing.
A blind eye is turned by countries to pirate links between Somalia’s Al Shabaab and Al Qaeda. And, although Pakistani involvement in Somali piracy may not be on the grand scale that the ISI would want, Pakistan’s well-earned reputation as the epicentre for global terrorism, and its virulent animosity towards India, can only be ignored at our own peril.  But this blind eye is par for the course; similar density is shown towards by the world, for example, as regards Pakistani government links with land based terrorists.

Western countries make a fortune in what are euphemistically called anti- piracy operations. They will not upset the cart carrying the pie; moreover, formal acknowledgement of links between pirates and terrorists will automatically make ransom payment illegal and bring the house of cards crashing down (something that will also put the crews still hostage in Somali at great risk, but that is not the reason they refuse to acknowledge the truth).

So that link is not going to officially happen. What will continue to happen, however, are advisories and warnings like the US MARAD one issued last month that was almost coincidental with the Grace’s release. That warned vessels operating in the Gulf of Oman, North Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden and Bab El Mandeb regions that terrorist attacks were being planned for that region (in response to, it transpires, US drone actions against Al Qaeda leaders).

Indian seamen are at great risk in this secret- and secretive- war. And not just in Somalia. Terrorism is spreading across Africa from one coast to the other. West African piracy is concentrated too, perhaps not coincidentally, in areas where this is a history of sectarian strife, Nigeria included. Recent incidents with foreign hostages on the ground in that broad region should serve as a warning to those connected with the sea- particularly Indians, who are especially vulnerable, because, on top of everything else, they are particular targets and their government  does not care for them. Their government, along with the rest of them, is going down the path of pretended ignorance.

I quote Theodore Roosevelt, who is supposed to have said, “In any moment of decision, the best thing to do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.” Unfortunately, the right thing can only be done by people with the right stuff, and there is no evidence of that in the Indian government or maritime administration. Proving that they do have what it takes will take a kind of Quad Erat Demonstranduming I am absolutely incapable of. You can try.

Ignorance- pretended or not- is not always bliss. Sometimes it is oblivion.

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