India, China navies rescue hijacked ship

Although a Chinese navy declaration yesterday overlooked any mention of the the Indian Navy in supplying chopper address towards the Oriental vessel whose unique forces boarded the Tuvaluan vessel under hijack, Asian Foreign Ministry representative Hua Chunying stated the procedure shown "usefulness of the Chinese naval power within the area of fighting against pirates".

Indian Navy ships - INS Mumbai, INS Tarkash, INS Trishul and INS Aditya - proceeding on deployment to the Mediterranean and passing through the Gulf of Aden, responded to the call and rushed towards the merchant vessel and closed in by the early hours of Sunday, said Navy spokesman DK Sharma.

The omission was likely no accident.

However, many experts believe that the recent face-off between India and China on the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama's visit to the disputed border region of Tawang may have been the cause for such adverse response.

When questioned about the Indian Navy's role being omitted, Ms Hua said China's Ministry of Defence should be approached for details.

Somali pirate attacks peaked with 237 in 2012 but then declined steeply after ship owners improved security measures and worldwide naval forces stepped up patrols.

The Indian defense ministry said four of its navy ships in the vicinity responded to a distress signal from the ship and reached the bulk carrier early on Sunday. "Fleet vessel Yulin immediately set out after the vessel".

Xinhua news agency quoted the Chinese Navy as saying in a statement that a group of 16 members from the navy's special force boarded the hijacked ship OS35 and rescued the 19 crew members.

No word was given on arrests or other contact with the pirates.

"Subsequently ... a boarding party from the nearby Chinese Navy ship went on board the merchant ship, while the Indian Naval helicopter provided air cover for the operation".

However, Hua, without detailing what cooperation she referred to, said, "We always remain positive towards worldwide cooperation in combating pirates".

That involvement offers both a sign of China's growing engagement in the global commons and valuable practice for its navy in operating far from home ports.

  • Leroy Wright