Rediff has a slide show of photos released by the Indian Navy of the INS Tabar's engagement with Somali pirates on November 11. They show both the destruction of the pirates' mothership (above) and the helicopter action to defend the MV Jag Arnav, a merchant vessel owned by Mumbai-based Great Eastern Shipping Company (below).
The piece also reports that India is sending the INS Mysore, a Delhi-class destroyer, to replace the Tabar in region. The destroyer is larger and more heavily armed than the Tabar, which is a frigate.
In the past few weeks, the wife of the vessel's captain, Seema Goyal,
ran a relentless campaign to free the crew. On Monday, congratulatory
messages praising her efforts poured in and were splashed on television
screens all day.
The jubilant captain of the Stolt Valor spoke to his wife on the phone, and their conversation was broadcast live.
"Who do you want to see first?" a beaming Goyal asked her husband. "Me? Or the children?"
"I love you; I would like to see you first," answered the captain, Prabhat Goyal. "I had your photograph with me all the time."
News of media intimidation in Nepal. From RSF/RWB press release (in full below):
Reporters Without Borders calls on the Nepalese authorities to carry
out thorough and rapid investigations into recent attacks by violent
groups on independent media and journalists. One the latest was on 16
November in the capital and targeted the Himal Media group.
"All the Nepalese media deserve the same level of safety and freedom,
and it is up to the government to guarantee this protection," Reporters
Without Borders said. "There is an urgent need for the police to
conduct proper investigations, identify those responsible and bring
them to justice. The Maoist-led government must ensure that all voices
can be heard in Nepal, even those that criticise the new authorities."
Around 10 masked men on motorcycles attacked the Himal Media press
group's distribution depots in the capital on 16 November, vandalising
equipment and torching more than 1,000 copies of the group's
Nepali-language fortnightly Himal Khabarpatrika.
The magazine's editor, Kanak Mani Dixit, told Reporters Without Borders
he regarded the incident as an "organised attempt to restrict free
expression and increase fear among journalists."
Pirates imprisoned in Boosaaso's main jail, Somalia (photo by Jehad Nga)
The INS Tabar, a frigate in the Gulf of Aden, destroyed a "mothership" used by Somalia-based pirates to launch attacks by speedboat on merchant shipping in the area. The New York Times reports that at least eight ships have been attacked by Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa in the last two weeks, the most notable of which is the Saudi-owned supertanker Sirius Star, with its $100 million cargo of crude. The vessel was captured and is now being held for ransom off the coast of Somalia.
Danger Room notes that this is the Tabar's third engagement with pirates in little more than a week. The Times of India reports that the Tabar answered distress calls from Saudi- and Mumbai-based ships. Defending the Saudi vessel, the Tabar launched a Chetak helicopter with armed commandos, who fired on the pirate craft, forcing it to disengage.
India's naval presence in the region is new. The
International Maritime Bureau reports (cited in the NYTimes article) that this year, at least 92 ships have been attacked in and around the Gulf
of Aden, more than triple the number in 2007. India has joined British, American, Russian, and French naval vessels in the region, though there is no formal agreement, among the UN, NATO, or another body, on how best to coordinate the defense of merchant shipping and to reconcile security with the sovereignty of Somalia's territorial waters.
India's stake stems in part from its role in the centuries-old dhow trade, the small wooden cargo vessels that ply the Arabian Sea, the Gulf, and the Gulf of Aden, with cargo ranging from dates and grain to televisions, cooking oil, and contraband. All the major ports in the region, including Dubai, Karachi, and Kuwait, are active in the dhow trade, with most of the sailors coming from India and Pakistan. Mumbai and ports in Gujarat are home to India's dhow industry.
Gujarati sailors aboard the MSV Shree Mahalaxmi, Sharjah, UAE, 2004 (photo by Preston Merchant)
An Indian dhow with 13 crew were seized on October 25 and later released. Indian nationals also serve on the crews of vessels flagged in other countries, including the Japanese-owned chemical tanker MV Stolt Valor, which was captured by pirates in September and released on Nov. 16 after a ransom was paid. The crew of 22 was comprised of 18 Indian nationals, including the captain.
According to the Business Standard, Somalia has become the most important destination for dhow cargo since it receives no container traffic:
Today, most of the “high quality” trade happens with — take a breath
— Somalia, through the ports of Berbera and Mogadishu. It might come a
surprise but even the World Bank in its trade briefs notes that India
is the lawless country’s biggest trade partner — supplying it with
essential basic commodities such as rice, pulses, wheat, flour and
sugar and helping transport the country’s only significant export —
goats — to West Asia. And all the trade is courtesy the brave seamen
who set out from the Kutch and, to a lesser extent, from Mumbai,
Mangalore and Calicut.
“Earlier, we used to trade with Dubai but that has shrunk due to
container availability. It is only a little profitable if you go there
with over 1,000 tons. But places such as Yemen, Somalia, Eritrea and
Kenya have no container traffic,” says Qasam Ali Mohammed Moulik,
president of the Mandvi-Kutch Vahanvati Association. A ton shipped to
Somalia will cost about Rs 1,300 at the current floating freight rate.
Trade matters. According to the BBC, "about a third of India's total fleet of 900 cargo ships deployed in international waters are at risk" in the Gulf of Aden, with its access to the Suez Canal, and the INS Tabar has already escorted some 35 ships, including non-Indian ones, along the route.