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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Comment: Look to the Indian navy to solve this problem

November 24, 2008

By ERIC MARGOLIS
The Edmonton Sun (Canada)
November 23, 2008

The piracy epidemic now plaguing the Gulf of Aden and waters off the
Horn of Africa is fascinating stuff. Brazen Somalia pirates have
attacked 95 vessels year to date.

The corsairs still hold 16 ships and 250 sailors. Among them, a
Ukrainian freighter loaded with T-72 tanks whose ultimate destination
remains a mystery, and now a Saudi supertanker laden with two million
barrels of oil valued at $110 million U.S. The pirates demand a
$25-million ransom for the vessel and Filipino crew.

Western powers, including Canada, have increased naval patrols off
the Horn of Africa. But the piracy epidemic underlines the urgent
need to bring stability to anarchic Somalia, where millions face
famine. Somalia's last government, a moderate Islamist movement, was
overthrown in 2006 by the U.S. and ally Ethiopia.

One of the most interesting aspects of the pirate drama involves
India. In a dramatic move, an Indian frigate, INS Tabar, stole the
limelight by sinking a Somali pirate mother ship off the coast of
Oman. Tabar had previously driven off other Somali buccaneers.

I first saw Tabar, a Soviet/Russian Krivak-III missile frigate, under
construction at St. Petersburg's Baltiysky Zavod yards. This elegant
warship carries the new Russian/Indian "BrahMos," the world's
deadliest supersonic anti-ship missile, and the Israeli Barak missile system.

Growing power

Tabar was on station in the Gulf of Aden escorting Indian merchantmen
and ships of other nations. Her presence is the latest sign of
India's growing maritime power, a subject about which I have been
writing for two decades.

India is now making her maritime strength felt right to the mouth of
the Red Sea, in the oil exporting Gulf, along Africa's east coast,
and all the way south to Fiji and Australian waters.

Many Indian strategists regard the vast Indian Ocean as their
nation's "mare nostrum," or exclusive sphere of influence.

India's steady naval expansion is designed to protect its commerce
and long coasts and exert Delhi's growing influence around the
oil-rich Gulf and South Asia. India's navy also is keeping a weather
eye on the evolution of China's fleet from a coastal defence force
into a true bluewater navy.

Just this week, a senior Chinese official caused a stir in Washington
by hinting his nation was planning to build its first aircraft
carrier (the U.S. has 11).

India's fleet includes an aircraft carrier, a refitting ex-Soviet
carrier on order, at least 16 modern submarines, plus a series of
nuclear-powered ones being built, 48 surface warships, a powerful
naval air arm and advanced reconnaissance satellites.

India's growing navy might soon challenge the Indian Ocean's premier
naval power, the United States, which regards the Gulf oil routes and
Arabian Sea as its own pond.

Nuclear subs

India's acquisition of Russian Akula class nuclear-powered subs that
do 40 knots submerged, the deadly BrahMos missiles (ideal for sinking
carriers), and the Russian heavy, Tu-160 long-range bomber have the
U.S. Navy watching warily.

In another important event barely noticed in the West, on Nov. 14 an
Indian space probe hit the moon.

If India can deliver a probe to the moon, the same launchers and
guidance systems can deliver nuclear warheads to North America,
Europe or Australia.

India is testing a new 5,500-km medium ranged ballistic missile,
Surya, which is expected to be upgraded into a true inter-continental
ballistic missile (ICBM) with double the range. India also is
deploying a submarine-launched, nuclear-armed ballistic missile.

India is placing new Agni-II intermediate missiles along the tense
Tibet border in response, says Delhi, to more than 100 Chinese
nuclear-armed missiles on the Tibetan plateau targeted at India.

The lesson to be drawn from all this is that India must be a force to
be reckoned with in the Indian Ocean and Gulf as it advances its own
oil, trade and political interests which inevitably will come to
compete with those of the other two regional superpowers, the United
States and China.

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