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2ND LEAD

Puzzle grows over piracy in Indian Ocean

[TamilNet, Saturday, 07 May 2011, 08:49 GMT]
A cargo ship of 24 Chinese sailors, registered in Panama, was seized by pirates in the Arabian Sea, 800 km off Mumbai, and was rescued after several hours by US and Turkish teams, said Chinese news reports Friday. According to Indian media, the Indian Navy was involved in the rescue. There was no information on whether a ransom was paid. Last November, another cargo ship with 19 Chinese sailors, registered in Singapore was hijacked and was released after a payment of several million dollars. According to the Chinese quoted by the AFP, the pirates have been extending the coverage area and the next ones of their reach are Sri Lanka and Malacca Straits.

In the wake of the current modus operandi of the international system, the mid sea activities that have no transparency only increase puzzle in the minds of the peoples of the region over the collaboration or competition that is taking place in protecting their sea lanes.

A people who may soon face the gravity of the issue are going to be the Maldivians, whose chain of islands numbering 1200, stretches from 7.10 degrees north to 0.45 degrees south latitude.

Sri Lanka or Southeast Asia is not reachable from the west without crossing the number of channels in the Laccadives (India) – Maldives (independent) – Chagos (British-US) archipelago.

In recent years concerns are voiced in certain quarters over increased Chinese influence in the Maldives Islands.

After visiting Colombo for closeting with Sri Lanka’s defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, this week, the US Asst Secretary of State Robert Blake made a three-day visit to the Maldives.

Following the visit of Blake, the foreign minister of Maldives, Ahmed Nazeem, told journalists in Colombo that the UN Panel report on Sri Lanka is “singularly counterproductive". Since last year, Maldives has been a member of the UN Human Rights Council.

Mr. Blake visits Maldives for the second time within a year.

In January, the US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg was in the Maldives.

The tourism economy of the Maldives, mainly hooked to the West, was seriously affected in the last few years along with recession in the West, at a time when democratic changes took place in the country.

Agitations, led by the former President Gayoom now take place in Maldives against a government decision to float the currency within a 20 percent band that has all of a sudden increased the cost of living dramatically.

Visiting Blake had a strong message to the opposition, either to work with the government or to allow the government to handle the crisis, The Hindu said on Tuesday.

Enough fodder is given to the opposition in Maldives by Blake braving to come out with the statement, commented opposition circles in Maldives.


Chronology:

 

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