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Tag Archives | Piracy

Maritime Piracy in Bangladesh

DoD Photo

Does piracy off the coast of Bangladesh pose a threat? The answer is yes. Is the threat external or internal? The answer is both. While Bangladesh has long-running conflicts with its neighbors over maritime boundaries which are being solved amicably, the latest threat is now emerging from maritime piracy. How is maritime piracy threatening Bangladesh and to what extent?

Recently, several dozen fishermen were abducted from the Sundarbans. A total of 11 piracy events took place off the coast of Bangladesh in 2012. What are the factors behind maritime piracy in Bangladesh? Maritime piracy in Bangladesh is the result of a set of interrelated factors. Factors associated with the failure of law-enforcing agencies, a culture of impunity and poverty induced criminality.

The first set of factors basically stems from inefficiency and corruption of law-enforcement agencies. Most significantly, inefficiency within Bangladesh’s Coast Guard (BCG) which is charged with maintaining security for the maritime zone around Bangladesh, is overstretched, the result of a shortage of manpower and equipment. Founding Director General of BCG has suggested that the BCG is comprised of only 2,000 persons who need better equipment and more than its current fleet of 11 vessels. Eight vessels are 30 years old and cannot operate during the monsoon season. Importantly, it will be interesting to watch how Bangladesh’s Coast Guard utilizes a decommissioned U.S. Coast Guard Cutter that was transferred to their custody in 2013.

The second set of factors is associated with the failure of crime prevention and reduction. As reported by Bangladeshi media last month, police take bribes from drug dealers and criminals in Cox’s Bazar. Criminals commit crimes more and more because they know police will not arrest them. The third set of factors has been identified as poverty related.

The less work that is available, crime will increase. The implications of maritime piracy for Bangladesh are far-reaching. The livelihood and survival of many thousands of people from 16 coastal areas are dependent on fishing in the rivers in and around the Bay of Bengal. Around one million people are dependent on fishing alone in the Cox’s Bazar alone. The lack of personal security in maritime zones poses a threat to their livelihoods.

In the last five years, pirates have killed at least 411 fishermen and wounded at least 1,000 more, suggested Mujibur Rahman, Chairman of Cox’s Bazar District Fishing Trawler Owners Association (DFTOA). According to the DFTOA, pirates attacked more than 1,000 fishing boats, abducting more than 3,000 fishermen, killed over 45 and collected more than 1.28 million USD in ransoms from fishery owners of two coastal towns – Chakaria and Maheshkhali, alone from late 2011 to late 2012.

Attacks on Bangladesh’s fishing industry have profound implications for the national economy. The country will face significant economic losses if piracy cannot be controlled. Mujibur Rahman argues that coastal fishermen contribute 25-35% of the nation’s total catch which declined during fiscal year of 2012-2013.

This is the right time to combat maritime piracy. The policy of combating piracy must have two approaches: traditional and non-traditional. Otherwise, it cannot work properly. What does the traditional and non-traditional approach mean? The traditional approach is the way of preventing crime through the use of military force. But, this is not the permanent solution. Suppose the law-enforcing agencies conducted operations, seized pirates and thus reduced the crime but criminals were not provided job and earning facilities.

The problem will remain if these pirates are not rehabilitated back into society. Here is the essence of a non-tradition approach which embraces a series of tasks, for example providing basic needs to the criminals, educating them, employing them in different job sectors and reintegrating them into society. Anti-piracy social awareness campaigns can also be conducted countrywide.

While maritime piracy has been extensively covered when it is occurring off the coast of Somalia, the increase in piracy off the coast of Bangladesh must also be addressed.

Africa Needs to Rethink Piracy Challenge

Somali pirates

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in South Africa published on 10 March 2014 a piece titled “Fewer Pirates, Different Risks: Africa Needs to Rethink Its Approach to Maritime Security” by Timothy Walker, researcher at ISS.

There has been a sharp decline in piracy in waters off Africa. The author argues that the Djibouti Code of Conduct is a laudable starting point upon which to build future maritime security capacity in Africa. But African maritime stakeholders now need to implement the 2050 African Integrated Maritime Strategy, which was adopted by the African Union early this year, as well as become involved in creating and implementing national and regional integrated maritime strategies.

Chinese Anti-Piracy Operations in the Gulf of Aden

Chinese sailors

The Naval War College published in November 2013 a massive study titled “No Substitute for Experience: Chinese Anti-Piracy Operations in the Gulf of Aden” by Andrew S. Erickson and Austin M. Strange. The authors address six major aspects of China’s anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden since their inception in December 2008: modern piracy and the relevance to China; institutional underpinnings: domestic political and policy issues; China’s views on multilateral coordination; China’s recent anti-piracy activities in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean; operational trajectories; and lessons learned and implications for global maritime governance.

China and the International Antipiracy Effort

Chinese Navy

Writing for The Diplomat on 1 November 2013, Andrew Erickson and Austin Strange discuss China’s engagement in countering piracy in an article titled “China and the International Antipiracy Effort.” The analysis emphasizes the importance of this activity for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), especially in the Gulf of Aden.

U.S. Military Policy in Somalia and Counter Piracy

Amanda J. Dory

Amanda J. Dory, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs, testified on 8 October 2013 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Somalia. She discussed US military policy in the region going forward.

Dory commented that while al-Shabaab has been weakened as a conventional fighting force in Somalia, it “is still dangerous and capable of conducting sophisticated unconventional attacks to disrupt AMISOM operations and the Somali government.” She testified that “thanks to changes in business practices by the commercial maritime industry, and the presence of international naval forces, piracy is almost non-existent off the coast of Somalia. The last successful hijacking of a major commercial ship was in May 2012.”

Somali Piracy on the Decline

Farah Abdi Warsameh/AP

The World Bank has just published a massive study titled “The Pirates of Somalia: Ending the Threat, Rebuilding a Nation.” The study notes there has been a sharp decrease in the number of Somali attempted and successful pirate attacks. It attributes this decrease to heavily-armed naval patrols and better security on-board commercial shipping. It emphasizes, however, that a sustained solution to ending piracy will only come with the recreation of a viable Somali state that can deliver essential services throughout the entire country to reduce poverty and create opportunity.

The study estimates that piracy costs the global economy about $18 billion annually in increased trade costs-an amount that dwarfs the estimated $53 million annual ransom paid since 2005. Piracy has significantly harmed tourism and exports of fish products from the region.  The fact that pirates can anchor their hijacked vessels along the Somali shoreline reflects their ability to win support from government officials, business people, clan elders, militias, and local communities. The pirate bosses split an estimated 70 to 86 percent of piracy proceeds with these stakeholders, without whose support anchoring hijacked ships would not be possible.

On-shore interventions such as local economic development or law enforcement will help discourage young Somalis from becoming pirates by increasing the attractiveness of alternative jobs or by promising long prison terms in the case of capture. At the same time, pirate bosses may simply offer higher pay to poor, unemployed Somali young men to take the risk of capture or death at sea.

Somalia: Symbolism of American Diplomatic Recognition

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton with President of Somalia Hassan Sheikh Mohamud

January 17, 2013 was a memorable day for Somalia. It was the day the United States abandoned its misguided policy towards Somalia and formally recognized the central government after 22 years.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton with President of Somalia Hassan Sheikh Mohamud

Going forward, two challenges that need to be addressed are the mobilization of an international aid package and within Somalia the overcoming of internal divisions based on clan loyalty, past injustices, collective mistakes, and fear of the future and a tendency for Somalis to look out for political self-interest. Somalia should be grateful for the decision of the Obama administration not only to liberate Somalia from Al Shabaab and lead an effort to combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden.

This historical move must be a vindication for Michael Zorick, a former US State Department Political Officer for Somalia, who was removed in 2006 from his position after he dissented from the Bush administration’s counter-terrorism policy towards Somalia and late congressman Donald Payne who challenged Ethiopia’s involvement in Somalia. The announcement is also a triumph for Professor Michael A. Weinstein of Purdue University who has consistently argued for the best interests Somalia, and for John Prendergast who wrote in 2006, “Our failure in Somalia.”

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Somali-Turkish Relations: Opportunities and Challenges

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his wife Emine Erdogan visit a camp for displaced people in Mogadishu August 19, 2011. Umit Bektas/Reuters

Since the end of “transition” last year, the world seems willing to be engaged in Somalia once again after twenty years.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his wife Emine Erdogan visit a camp for displaced people in Mogadishu August 19, 2011. Umit Bektas/Reuters

This has happened because of many factors on the ground: al-Shabaab is becoming a non issue, there is sound leadership with clear vision on how to rebuild Somalia, and engage the world, and most importantly, the Somali people are ready for peace and governance although there are still some obstacles. With that in mind, however, the visit of Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Somalia in August 2011 was a turning point that opened Somalia to the world, and shaped renewed relations between Turkey and Somalia. Since the visit, Turkey has shown an interest in Somalia by opening the doors of cooperation between the two countries.

Many young Somali students were sponsored by private foundations to pursue their education throughout Turkey. As of today, according to the Somali Embassy in Ankara, there are 1,500 Somali students in Turkey studying in middle schools to universities. As part of a group from the U.S., who recently visited Turkey, I had an opportunity to meet these bright Somali students who came from every region of Somalia. They attend some of the best private schools in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir and Soma. Meeting with them was inspiring and emotional for the Somali-American delegation. All of these educational efforts will produce the human capital that—if it is used positively—is capable of playing a role in the formation a functioning society that is ruled by laws.

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India Strengthens the Alliance of Cyber Democracies

U.S. airmen man computers at the United States Cyber Command

“[The] combined strength of cyber security experts in all organisations in the government domain is 556, which is grossly inadequate to handle cyber security activities.” – India’s National Security Council Secretariat

U.S. airmen man computers at the United States Cyber Command

India’s agreement with Japan to cooperate on cybersecurity at the recent “2+2” of Secretaries of Defence and External Affairs of each country has a distinctly strategic and military connotation. The move represents a deepening of India’s strategic engagement with the global network of the alliance of democracies with the United States at the core. More specifically, it brings India a step closer to joining the inner circle of that alliance that is involved in signals intelligence and joint cyber defense of a military character.

At the EastWest Institute’s Second Worldwide Cybersecurity Summit in London in 2011, Deputy National Security Adviser, Dr. Latha Reddy, declared that India wanted to become a member of the community of trusted nations in cyberspace. Some in London believe she meant by this the global intelligence alliance based on a small club of English speaking democracies who have been close intelligence allies since World War II (USA, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). The intelligence alliance is now much bigger in practical terms and includes other countries (such as Japan, South Korea, Israel or Taiwan) according to the military problem. If this is the direction that India is heading, then such a development would only be a positive one for global cyber stability.

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