Protecting our sea lanes

Protecting our sea lanes

The sinking of a pirate vessel off Somali waters by INS Tabar of the Indian Navy is a sign of India assuming responsibilities it had so far shied from.

The incident occurred after pirates refused to stop for investigation. Instead they asked our ship to move on or be blown off.

If this demonstrates the will of the navy, it also underscores the menace posed by piracy off the Horn of Africa. INS Tabar has been in those waters since early November to assist Indian merchant ships in such eventualities.

For a country, half of whose gross domestic product is linked one way or the other to trade, India pays remarkably little attention to keeping its vital sea lanes free from such problems. There have been exercises and joint patrolling in the Malacca Straits and elsewhere, but little strategic thought in the matter.

Part of the problem is that the theatre commanders have little autonomy. This is partly a relic of 20th century notions of “civilian control" over the Armed Forces. Operational flexibility and autonomy are a must in an age where split-second decisions can make or mar fortunes.