India rushing warship to Seychelles to fight off Somali pirates

NEW DELHI, April 20: India has rushed a naval warship to Seychelles in response to an SOS from the tiny island-nation in the Indian Ocean to carry out anti-piracy patrols in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Early this month, several incidents of Somali pirates operating near Seychelles were reported. At least ten Seychellois have been taken hostage in recent weeks after Somali pirates shifted their focus to this region after being chased by international naval forces in the Gulf of Aden.

Several pirate groups are reported to be functioning less than 200 nautical miles north of Mahe, capital and the largest island of Seychelles. The problem became so acute that the island’s President James Michel had to cut short his official visit to Japan and rush back home last week after several vessels came under attack from the pirates.

The Seychelles Armed Forces (SAF) announced in Mahe on Sunday that it has requested the Indian Navy to patrol the country’s EEZ.

The Indian Navy confirmed on Sunday that its warship INS Nirdeshak has been rushed to Seychelles. INS Nirdeshak carries a crew of 20 officers and 155 other ranks, including a highly trained quick response team.

The 2,000-ton Nirdeshak is equipped with a 40mm rapid-firing gun, state-of-the art electronic surveillance system, a Chetak helicopter and interceptor boats, which are capable of multiple operations.  It belongs to the Sandhayak class of survey vessels, and has made several trips to Seychelles in the past to carry out navigational surveys.

The Indian Navy has already been active in combating piracy in the Red Sea/Gulf of Aden. Its ships have not only given protection to several merchant ships but have thwarted many pirate attacks. 

An SAF announcement in Mahe said: "In keeping with the special relations between Seychelles and India, the Indian navy remains committed to helping Seychelles with anti-piracy measures, of which the deployment of the Nirdeshak is the first step."

It will patrol in Seychelles’ EEZ for about 10 days and will carry out extensive surveillance of the area.  Later deployment of Indian ships is presently being worked out between the governments of India and Seychelles.

Seychelles is an archipelago of 115 islands, some 1,500km east of mainland Africa, and has the smallest population of (87,476) of any country in Africa. It is a tourist paradise, patronised by rich westerners.

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