Will support Indian military action against pirates: Somali leader

New Delhi, May 15: Against the backdrop of Somali pirates currently holding over 60 Indian sailors as hostage, the African country’s Puntland state backs military operations to rescue them and to fight piracy, even as its President Abdirahman Mohammed Mohamud Farole is in India to work out a naval capacity building agreement.

‘I always support the military operations to fight piracy,’ Farole told reporters on the sidelines of an event he addressed at the Indian Council for World Affairs (ICWA) at Sapru House here.

He was responding to queries if the Puntland government will support Indian military action to rescue its sailors held hostage by Somali pirates all along Somalia’s 3,300-km coast.

Puntland is a semi-autonomous state in north-eastern Somalia.

However, Farole had a word of caution on the fight against piracy. ‘If you don’t stop the option of ransom payment, you won’t stop piracy. That (ransom) encourages new recruits and that (piracy) never ends,’ he said.

The other option to deter the pirates, according to the Puntland president, was to fight indirectly through other means such as denying access to the seas for the pirates and ensuring economic growth in the Somali coast that offers youth alternative employment opportunities.

Though there were no ships held hostage in Puntland as of now, Abdirahman admitted that pirates did escape into their territory ‘sometimes’ from neighbouring areas when the government forces fight them on land.

‘We are fighting them on the land, but we do not have support from the sea. We do not have the means to reach them in the sea. International forces off the shore do not want to hurt them because they are afraid the hostage may be hurt and that doesn’t work (in the anti-piracy fight),’ he said.

Farole, who is scheduled to meet Indian political leadership including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday, said he will discuss a military agreement with India, particularly in capacity building of its forces to fight piracy both on land and sea.

‘Yes, definitely. Training… mainly to support training,’ he said when asked if a military agreement would be discussed with the Indian leaders.

However, he said his government does not allow any foreign military base in Puntland.

IANS