"Piracy is not only a threat to the freedom of maritime navigation, it is causing destabilising effects on global and regional trade and security.
"The negative humanitarian impact of this threat on seafarers who are the lifeline of maritime shipping can no longer be ignored," India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri said yesterday during a UN Security Council debate on 'Maintenance of International Peace and Security : Piracy'.
The thematic debate was organised under India's monthly rotating Presidency of the 15-nation body.The Council later adopted a Presidential Statement on the issue of piracy, which was initiated by the Indian delegation,and incorporates the concerns of several countries relating to the welfare of seafarers taken as hostages by pirates.
Puri said the threat of piracy now looms over an area of more than 2.8 million square miles, posing the patrolling naval forces with a formidable task.
Despite increased naval presence, pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia have continued, with little change in the level of violence by the pirates against seafarers. As of August 2012, the Somali pirates were holding 11 ships and 188 hostages, including 43 Indian seafarers.
He said given the adverse impact the acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea have on maritime trade, seafarers and security, India attaches "high priority" to combating piracy,including in waters off the coast of Somalia and the Gulf of Guinea.
While naval ships deployed in the Gulf of Aden have been successful in thwarting several piracy attempts, the growing scope and expanding coverage of the problem indicates that the naval operations alone would not be sufficient to treat the menace of piracy, Puri said.
"There is a need to adopt a comprehensive counter- piracy strategy, that includes efforts to deter pirates and the effective prosecution of pirates," Puri added.Efforts toward prosecution and imprisonment of pirates cannot succeed without the effective involvement of the states in the region.
Capacity building not only of Somalia but also of other States in the region is an essential component of this strategy, he added.
"While we will continue with counter- piracy operations,there is also an urgent need for the international community to address the serious problem of seafarers being taken as hostages and consequent humanitarian problems faced by them and their families.
"It requires active cooperation in the sharing of information, evidence and intelligence in the investigation,prosecution and sentencing of suspected pirates as well as in efforts to achieve an early release of seafarers that are held hostage by pirates," Puri said.
He said India has been of the firm view that steps to disrupt land-based pirate activities and the associated financial flows are critical in a strong and comprehensive counter- piracy approach.It is essential to investigate and prosecute individuals and networks that provide the leadership, support and financial flows for the sustenance of piracy.
"This would require a broader criminal legislation,covering crimes of extortion, kidnapping, conspiracy, money laundering and financing of pirate activities, as also active collaboration and sharing of information and intelligence between private sector, states and relevant international organisations," Puri said.
He noted that combating maritime piracy is an important issue that is intrinsically linked with the security situation in Somalia and in the states around the Gulf of Guinea.Puri expressed hope that the new government of Somalia would fully implement counter- piracy measures.
Outlining the challenges that require the immediate attention of the international community in tackling piracy,Puri said there is need for better information sharing and trust building among countries and agencies involved in counter piracy efforts, stronger capacity to prosecute piracy-related cases and the establishment of a framework governing the use of privately contracted armed security personnel on board vessels to ensure appropriate regulation and accountability.