India urges Asian unity in battle against pirates


India called Wednesday for greater regional unity to combat the threat of piracy in Asia’s busy shipping lanes as it hosted a 17-nation meeting of maritime security officials. “India strongly believes that mutual collaboration alone is the most effective way of ensuring the security and safety of oceans,” Defence Minister A.K. Antony told heads of coastguard agencies from across Asia gathered in New Delhi. “The Indian government remains committed to the security of the Indian Ocean region by implementing international relations and cooperative mechanisms with (Asian) nations.”
Officials at the four-day meeting include coastguard chiefs from India’s rival Pakistan as well as from China and Japan, who are locked in a standoff over Tokyo-controlled islands on key shipping lanes in the East China Sea. The meeting comes amid warnings that Somali pirates — under pressure from navies trying to combat their hijackings off east Africa — could try to extend their range into the Indian Ocean. Pirates pose particular problems for the Maldives, an Indian Ocean archipelago of 1,192 tiny coral islands best known for its upmarket beach resorts. “Top priority must be accorded for the creation of safe and secure oceans,” Antony added.