NATO Ends Counter-Piracy Mission
NATO has ended its Indian Ocean counter-piracy mission after a sharp fall in attacks, the alliance said on Wednesday, as it shifts resources to deterring Russia in the Black Sea and people smugglers in the Mediterranean.
All ships and patrol aircraft have now left the area off the Horn of Africa, where they patrolled since 2009, as part of a broader international effort to crack down on Somali-based pirates who had caused havoc with world shipping.
NATO says its “Ocean Shield” operation, as well as European Union and other counter-piracy missions, have significantly reduced attacks, with no ships captured off Somalia since May 2012, down from more than 30 ships at the peak in 2010-11.
After more than a decade of NATO-led operations far beyond its borders, the U.S.-led military alliance is shifting to defend its territory to deter Russia in the east, following Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula.
“The global security environment has changed dramatically in the last few years and NATO navies have adapted with it,” NATO spokesman Dylan White said in a statement. “NATO has increased maritime patrols in the Baltic and Black Seas. We are also working to help counter human smuggling in the Mediterranean.”
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Cooperation is key to securing maritime security in the Indian Ocean
Maritime security is a major challenge for the poorer coastal and island countries of the Indian Ocean Region. In particular those that have large zones of maritime jurisdiction. The Indian Ocean is the world’s third largest ocean. It has an area of around 73.5 million square kilometers. Unlike the Pacific and the Atlantic, it is enclosed on three sides by landmasses.
The Indian Ocean region comprises all the littoral and island states of that ocean. Some of these nations also share borders with the Persian Gulf and Red Sea. There are forty‑eight independent countries in the region including hinterland and landlocked states of East Africa and South Asia. There are 18 in Africa, 11 in the Middle East, seven in South Asia, six in Southeast Asia, five island states, and Australia.
The island states of Madagascar, Mauritius, Maldives and Seychelles, for example, have maritime zones of around 1 million square kilometers or more. Some west Indian Ocean states, notably Somalia and Yemen, also have large maritime zones that are fish rich. They are open to illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. But also other forms of maritime crime, including piracy, drug and arms smuggling.
Managing maritime security is a challenging endeavour. It requires cooperation between regional countries, and between those with a stake in regional security. Maritime security is no longer thesole prerogative of navies with more non-military agencies now involved.
Maritime security is a priority for the Indian Ocean Rim Association, currently the main regional organisation for economic and security cooperation. It recently committed its members to working on increasing cooperation among navies and other maritime security forces in the region. The plan is to do this collaboratively with the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, a voluntary initiative to address shared maritime security challenges and threats. The threats include illegal trafficking in drugs, arms and people, piracy, terrorism, illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, and the risks of natural disasters.
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