India to base anti-piracy patrol aircraft in Maldives


India is basing a Dornier Do 228 maritime patrol aircraft in the Maldives to combat piracy. The aircraft will stay there for three weeks.

According to Indian Navy officials, the Dornier, from Indian Naval Air Squadron 550, is being operated from Male from today and will monitor the Indian Ocean island nation’s exclusive economic zone whilst searching for pirates.

For the last two years, India has been sending a warship and an aircraft to patrol around the Maldives as Somali pirates become more active in the region.

Earlier this year US Admiral Robert Willard, head of the United States Pacific Command, said that pirates are posing particular problems for the Maldives, a lightly populated archipelago of 1 192 coral islands best known for its beach resorts.

Willard said he visited the Maldives where President Mohamed Nasheed told him, “his problem was that either abandoned pirates or pirates that were lost in the middle of the night in their activities, or otherwise detached from their motherships, were now landing in the Maldives.”

Although the waters in the Gulf of Aden (where most pirate attacks take place) are now safer, international anti-piracy efforts have pushed pirates move farther offshore, even going as far as India and Mozambique.

According to IANS, India also donated a fast attack craft to maritime forces of the Maldives and Bharat Electronics Limited has set up a network of coastal radars and trained local personnel in their operation.
“The Indian Navy has been mandated to be a net security provider to the island nations in the Indian Ocean Region. We would like to assure our maritime neighbours about our unstinted support for their security and economic prosperity,” Indian defence minister A K Antony said during a naval conference last week.

India also assists Mauritius in the fight against piracy, and donated a speedboat to that nation and set up a coastal radar chain of six radars. Mauritius has ordered an offshore patrol vessel from Indian shipyard Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers.

In addition, India has donated a fast attack vessel to the Seychelles and in February deployed a Dornier 228 to Victoria, the nation’s capital. Last year India promised to give the Seychelles its own Dornier patrol aircraft as well as two HAL Chetak light helicopters. The Dornier, sent to the island earlier this year for 15 months, was intended as a stopgap until HAL hands over a new aircraft to the government. It has already accumulated 300 flying hours.
“The Indian Ocean links us all and is critical for our economic interests. We must cooperate to ensure peace and stability in this region,” Antony said.