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Hit hard, Seychelles seeks Indian help against pirates
Monday, February 20, 2012
With its $1-billion economy losing about four percent of GDP to piracy, Seychelles has sought India's help in putting an end to this threat to trade in the Indian Ocean, particularly in prosecuting the sea brigands.
Seychelles Foreign Minister Jean-Paul Adam, who was in India on a three-day visit last week, told in an interview that he had asked his Indian counterpart, S M Krishna, to assist in the trial of pirates and help increase convictions.
"In Seychelles, we have estimated that piracy has cost us four percent of the GDP in terms of growth and this is a terrible cost to our economy...there is a huge opportunity cost," Adam said when asked about the impact of piracy on his country's economy.
He said the next step in the anti-piracy operations is prosecuting the sea brigands to end the impunity they enjoy.
"In Seychelles, currently we have convicted 67 pirates who are serving sentences in our jails and we also have another 18 who are awaiting trial.
"We look forward to working with India and one of the key issues I discussed with the minister (Krishna) is further support that India can give to our judicial system in terms of lawyers and judges, who will be able to help us in effectively prosecuting the pirates," he said.
Seychelles is an archipelago nation with a population of about 85,000, including a sizeable people of Indian origin, in the southern part of the Indian Ocean. It is close to all the anti-piracy action along the East African coast.
Several international groups such as the European Union and NATO, and many individual nations such as India, China and Japan, have deployed their warships in the Gulf of Aden to fight Somali pirates. Most of these nations use Seychelles as a staging post for their operations against the sea brigands.
"In Seychelles, we have really been hit very hard by piracy and it has come out of the blue. It was a shock for us. We have always considered ourselves as a country that is 1,000 miles (1,600 km) from anywhere. Because we literally are. We are in the middle of the Indian Ocean and we thought distance was our protection. But piracy has broken that illusion," Adam told IANS.
Talking about his first official visit here, Adam said the interaction with the Indian leaders this time had helped in "bringing a new dimension" in the already excellent relations.
"We have been particularly working very closely with India in our shared security. We share an ocean -- the Indian Ocean -- and we have both given a lot of importance to exchanging views and to strengthening each other's capacity to better face up to the challenges to security, including, for example, piracy but also the wider sphere of security, which is important for this region," he noted.
The two sides signed three agreements during this visit -- two on setting up a coastal surveillance radar system in Seychelles and one for supply of an Indian-built Dornier maritime reconnaissance plane to the archipelago nation.
Adam noted that Seychelles regarded its relations with India as the "deepest", as the archipelago is the "southern shield" leading up to India and the two nations can "act as one" for mutual security benefits.
In this regard, the Seychelles foreign minister pointed out that India has placed its warship and a Dornier aircraft alongside the archipelago's armed forces to carry out surveillance and for providing security cover.
"By guaranteeing Seychelles security, we can also better guarantee Indian security," he said.
He said piracy was a result of 30 years of anarchy in Somalia and the problem could not be solved overnight. But if all nations of the world and the region work together, within five years the situation could be brought under control through "minimum standards of security and working governance" in Somalia.
However, the Seychelles foreign minister identified the detention of convicted pirates as a major bottleneck in punishing them.
"We are working with our partners in Somalia to transfer these convicted pirates to UN-monitored detention facilities based in Somalia. The key bottleneck is being able to solve detention and may be that solution lies in Somalia," he said appealing to the world at large to work towards establishing detention facilities.
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