NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General John Craddock, acknowledged that the mission furthers the alliance's ambition to become a global political organization. He said, "The threat of piracy is real and growing in many parts of the world today, and this response is a good illustration of NATO's ability to adapt quickly to new security challenges." *** By any reckoning, NATO's naval deployment in the Indian Ocean region is a historic move and a milestone in the alliance's transformation. Even at the height of the Cold War, the alliance didn't have a presence in the Indian Ocean. Such deployments almost always tend to be open-ended. *** The NATO deployment has already had some curious fallout. In an interesting coincidence, on October 16, just as the NATO force was reaching the Persian Gulf, an Indian Defense Ministry spokesman announced in New Delhi, "The [Indian] government today approved deployment of an Indian naval warship in the Gulf of Aden to patrol the normal route followed by Indian-flagged ships during passage between Salalah in Oman and Aden in Yemen. "The patrolling is commencing immediately." The timing seems deliberate. Media reports indicated that the government had been working on this decision for several months. Like NATO, Delhi also acted fast when the time came, and an Indian ship has already set sail. Delhi initially briefed the media that the deployment came in the wake of an incident of Somali pirates hijacking a Japanese-owned merchant vessel on August 15, which had 18 Indians on board. But later, it backtracked and gave a broader connotation, saying, "However, the current decision to patrol African waters is not directly related [to the incident in August]." The Indian statement said, "The presence of an Indian navy warship in this area will be significant as the Gulf of Aden is a major strategic choke point in the Indian Ocean region and provides access to the Suez Canal through which a sizeable portion of India's trade flows." Indian officials said the warship would work in cooperation with the Western navies deployed in the region and would be supplemented with a larger force if need and that it would be well equipped. But Delhi obfuscated the fact that the Western deployment will be under the NATO flag and any cooperation with the Western navies will involve the Western alliance. Given the traditional Indian policy to steer clear of military blocs, Delhi is understandably sensitive. *** The operations hold the potential to shift India's ties with NATO to a qualitatively new level. The US has been encouraging India to forge ties with NATO as well as play a bigger role in maritime security affairs. The two countries have a bilateral protocol relating to cooperation in maritime security, which was signed in 2006. It says at the outset, "Consistent with their global strategic partnership and the new framework for their defense relationship, India and the United States committed themselves to comprehensive cooperation in ensuring a secure maritime domain. In doing so, they pledged to work together, and with other regional partners as necessary." The Indian Navy command has been raring to go in the direction of close partnership with the US Navy in undertaking security responsibilities far beyond its territorial waters. The two navies have instituted an annual large-scale annual exercise in the Indian Ocean - the Malabar exercises. This year's exercises are currently under way along India's western coast.Who knew that the failed state of Somalia could possibly bring people together?
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Interesting take on the NATO deployment to the shores of Somalia here from the Asia Times: