On 23 November 2016, NATO announced that it has ended Operation Ocean Shield after a sharp decline in attacks by Somali pirates. While there has been no vessel hijacked off Somalia since May 2012, the threat of piracy remains high despite no major incidents reported. This is due to the fact that pirate action group’s (PAGs) operating in the region continue to maintain the capability and drive to launch attacks in a bid to successfully hijack a merchant vessel.
MS Risk advises all vessels transiting this region to remain aware that while NATO has ended its operations in the area, the threat remains high and continued vigilance and compliance with BMP4 procedures is necessary. The threat remains high in waters off the southern Red Sea/Bab el Mandeb, Gulf of Aden – including Yemen and the northern Somali Coast – Arabian Sea/Off Oman, the Gulf of Oman and off the eastern and southern Somali coast. In the past, incidents of vessels being attacked have been recorded in waters off Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, the Seychelles and Tanzania, as well as in the Indian Ocean and off the western and southern coasts of India and western Maldives. We advise that all vessels continue to maintain a 24-hour visual and radar watch. We further remind all Masters that fishermen operating in this region may try to protect their nets by attempting to aggressively approach merchant ships. Some fishermen may be armed and should no be confused with pirates.
MS Risk further advise merchant vessels transiting the Red Sea, Bab el-Mandeb Strait and the Gulf of Aden to also operate under a heightened state of alert due to increasing tensions in the region, which can escalate the potential for direct or collateral damage to ships transiting this area. We advise that all vessels transiting this region should report any incidents or suspicious activity immediately. The threat may come from a number of different sources including missiles, projectiles or waterborne improvised explosive devices. Houthi rebels have claimed responsibly for the 1 October 2016 attack on a UAE vessel.
All ships and patrol aircraft under NATO Operation Ocean Shield have now left the area off the Horn of Africa. The Royal Danish Air Force carried out the last Indian Ocean surveillance missions for NATO, with the commander of the Danish air force detachment disclosing that NATO can resume its anti-piracy efforts at any time – whether in the Somali basin or the Atlantic Ocean.
Ships and patrol aircraft operating under the mission had been patrolling waters in this region since 2009 as part of a broader international effort to crackdown on Somali-based pirates who were impacting world shipping. The Ocean Shield operation, as well as European Union (EU) counter-piracy mission, have significantly reduced attacks, with the last reported vessel hijacking off Somalia occurring in May 2012 – down from more than thirty ships at the peak in 2010 – 2011.
NATO is now shifting its resources towards deterring Russia in the Black Sea and people smugglers in the Mediterranean. Earlier this month, NATO broadened its operations in the Mediterranean Sea in a bid to help the EU stop criminals trafficking refugees from North Africa.
According to the United States State Department, there was a marked fall in the number of terror attacks that occurred around the world in 2015.
In a newly released report this month, the State Department attributed the 13% decline from 2014 to fewer attacks in Iraq, Nigeria and Pakistan, which are three of the five countries that have been the worst affected by terrorism. The other two are Afghanistan and India. Together, more than half of the 11,000 attacks that occurred last year happened within the borders of these five countries.
Data compiled by the University of Maryland indicates that more than 28,300 people died – a 14% decline – and about 35,300 others were wounded in 11,774 terrorist attacks that occurred worldwide last year. State Department Acting Co-ordinator for Counterterrorism Justin Siberell notes that attacks and deaths increased in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, the Philippines, Syria and Turkey. The State Department also reported that figures indicate that the terror threat “continued to evolve rapidly in 2015, becoming increasingly decentralized and diffused,” adding that extremists were exploiting frustration in countries “where avenues for free and peaceful expression of opinion were blocked.” The State Department highlighted that the so-called Islamic State (IS) group is the biggest single threat, adding that the group has attracted affiliates and supporters in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. It noted that while IS was losing territory in Iraq and Syria, it was gaining strength in Libya and Egypt. The United Nations has also warned that IS is increasingly focusing on international civilian targets. The UN has reported that over the past six months, IS had carried out attacks in eleven countries. This does not include the militant group’s ongoing activity in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen.
The State Department report also disclosed that Iran was the biggest state sponsor of terrorism, stating that it supported conflicts in Syria and Iraq and that it was also implicated in violent Shia opposition raids in Bahrain. Bahrain has accused Iran of supplying weapons to Shia militants behind bomb attacks on security forces however Iran has denied this.
In 1962, China and India were at war. The conflict was a territorial dispute about two portions of the border: the Askai Chin in the western part and the Arunachal Pradesh eastward. India considered these areas as part of its national territory due to the frontier legacy of the British Indian Empire. China, one its hand, rejects the legitimacy of these “colonial” plots and believes that the two areas are an extension of its regions of Tibet and Xinjiang. Winning the war, Beijing had imposed its sovereignty over Aksai Chin while withdrawing troops from Arunachal Pradesh, allowing New Delhi to re-establish its authority. Since then, the status quo prevails but the dispute keeps poisoning the bilateral relationship of the two asian giants.
Territorial tensions: towards a peaceful border?
In September 1993, China and India signed an agreement “to maintain peace and tranquillity” along their disputed Himalayan border. This agreement between the two Asian giants – which required both sides to respect the Line of Actual Control (LAC), that is to maintain the status quo pending a peaceful, final boundary settlement and to reduce military forces along the border in accordance with the principle of “mutual and equal security” – has been described as a “landmark agreement” and “a significant step forward” in their uneasy relations since the 1950s.
However, incidents might still occur within the border. In April 2013, in the border between the Chinese Tibet and the Indian Ladakh, an incident happened between the two. In April, around 50 soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army entered in a territory the Indian considers their territory. Chinese militaries established a camp of about 5 tents whereas the Indian soldiers established their position about 300 meters away. The face to face lasted about 3 weeks and stopped in May, when an agreement has been signed by both parties, requiring each side to withdraw from the disputed area. Hence, this Himalayan region seems to remain a source of unsolved tension between India and China.
In the South China Sea (SCS), the rivalry between India and China is also a current issue. Indeed, SCS is a multi-party maritime dispute involving China, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. Of the 3.5 million sq. km. area of the SCS, almost 70 per cent is disputed. Even though India does not claim any of the islands of this area, India, under Vietnam’s request, explores oil within the region. China opposes this oil exploration in the SCS) by calling the area of exploration a ‘disputed’ area and asserting ‘Chinese sovereignty’ over the SCS. It has been continuously expressing its reservation in this regard in the last few years. India has taken note of the Chinese reservation and has carefully gone ahead in signing a few agreements with Vietnam for oil exploration in the SCS.
These tensions over the SCS seem to be not only about oil but also about influence within the region of South East Asia. China is in conflict with all the other parties involved in the SCS and numerous incidents happen with ships and fishermen boats within this region. India, on the other hand, seems to use this conflict to enhance its influence by supporting China’s rivals in the SCS. In addition, India is able to send warships into the South China Sea and that can make China nervous.
Sino-Pakistani relations: a source of tension
The cooperation between China and Pakistan is another source of tension and of preoccupation for India. Indeed, Pakistan is the historical rival of India and the territorial dispute over the Kashmir region has been unresolved for the last half century.
Started in 1962, China and Pakistan got closer whereas Pakistan was the historical rival of India. In 1963, both countries signed a Border Agreement. The cooperation is deep and various: for example, the Pakistani army’s equipment is 60% Chinese. Also, China is currently engaged on a variety of investment projects and infrastructural building activities in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), and these will be expanded under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.
Hence, Chinese officials call their investment and activities in POK as ‘livelihood project’; not being ‘political’, they are just ‘commercial’ in nature. Until now, China has maintained a ‘neutral’ position on the Kashmir dispute in recent times, particularly after the Kargil conflict, terming it as a ‘bilateral historical dispute’ between India and Pakistan. China’s presence in PoK has emerged is an issue between India and China. China’s massive commercial presence in PoK through CPEC would render China’s formal neutrality over the Kashmir issue irrelevant.
Two giant’s partnerships
Even though tensions occur within the two countries, many partnerships and diplomatic gestures illustrate their relations. Several agreements have been signed between Shanghai and New Delhi such as the India-China Strategic and Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity in 2005. The May 2015’s agreements is another example: China and India signed in Shanghai 21 commercial and cooperation agreements for an amount of 22 billion of dollars. From an economic point of view, commercial trades have significantly increased: from 3 billion in 2000 to 61,7 billion in 2010. China became one of the first economic partners of India.
These agreements also shows the diplomatic relations between China and India with different agreements such as: “(…) with both sides showing mutual respect and sensitivity to each other’s concerns, interests and aspiration” or The two sides believed that enhanced military ties are conducive to building mutual trust and confidence”.
Moreover, the respective leaders have been welcomed in the other country several times in the last decades.
(The full Joint Statement here: http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=121755)
Battle for spheres of influence
India and China do play a great game of sorts, competing for economic and military influence in Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. But these places are generally within the Greater Indian subcontinent, so that China is taking the struggle to India’s backyard. The whole map of Asia now spreads out in front of defence planners in New Delhi and Beijing, as it becomes apparent that the two nations with the largest populations in the world are encroaching upon each other’s spheres of influence. And so, India and China are eyeing each other warily.
According to a new report into international terrorism released this week, the number of deaths caused by terrorism increased by 61% between 2012 and 2013.
The 2014 Global Terrorism Index has revealed that in 2013, there were nearly 10,000 terrorist attacks globally, which represents a 44% increase from the previous year. Over the past year, 17958 people died from terrorist attacks, with the largest increase in deaths primarily due to the on-going civil war in Syria, which began in 2011. Of this number, 14,7222, or 80% of the total of deaths, occurred in just five countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria. India, Somalia, the Philippines, Yemen and Thailand were the next five, accounting for between 1% and 2.3% of global deaths due to terrorism.
According to the report, which is produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), 66% of all deaths from terrorist attacks in 2012 were due to four main terrorist groups: Islamic State, al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Boko Haram. Iraq was the country that was most affected by terrorism in 2013, with more than 6,000 people dying. The report notes that “not only is the intensity of terrorism increasing, its breadth is increasing as well.”
The report, which also investigates terrorism between 2000 and 2013, indicated that while Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries only experienced 5% of all deaths from terrorism since 2000, the report did note that these countries suffered some of the deadliest attacks that have been carried out over the past thirteen years. This includes the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States; the 2004 train bombings in Madrid, Spain; the 2005 London bombings and the 2012 bombing and shooting attack that occurred in Norway. In 2013, Turkey and Mexico were the OECD countries that had the highest number of deaths from terrorism, 57 and 40 respectively.
On Thursday, attackers stormed a United Nations base, where civilians had taken refuge, in South Sudan. According to officials, two Indian peacekeepers were killed, with many others feared dead.
United Nations deputy spokesman Farhan Haq reported that officials at the UN had lost contact with the base at Akobo in Jonglei state and that the fate of more than thirty ethnic Dinka civilians sheltering there was also unknown. UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson, who strongly condemned the attack, stated “we have received reports of people killed and injured and are in the process of verifying.”
India’s UN ambassador Asoke Mukerji confirmed that two Indian peacekeepers were “targeted and killed” in the assault on Akobo. An injured Indian soldier was taken to hospital. A minute’s silence for the soldiers was held at a UN meeting on peacekeeping in New York. UN deputy spokesman Haq further noted that forty other Indian peacekeepers, along with six UN police advisors, were moved to safety at a nearby South Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) camp. The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) will send sixty reinforcements and aircraft in order to pick up the peacekeepers however they are not scheduled to arrive in Akobo until Friday as it is difficult to get to. The latest attack was reportedly carried out by ethnic Nuer youths.
In the wake of this recent attack, the UN Security Council called emergency consultations to occur on Friday as the crisis in South Sudan, where hundreds have been killed this week in battles between President Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar, continues to mount. A statement released by a spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon indicated that the UN leader was “appalled” by the attack on Akobo. The statement added that if reports of civilian deaths were confirmed, “those responsible must be held accountable for their crimes.” Ban also noted “the future of this young nation requires its current leadership to do everything possible to prevent South Sudan descending into the chaos that would be such a betrayal of the ideals behind its long struggle for independence.”
Meanwhile in Bor, the capital of Jonglei state, officials have indicated that UN forces are protecting 1,000 civilians who have gathered around a base. They are also protecting the Bor airstrip. Bor fell to Riek Machar’s forces on Wednesday.
Since clashes between rival factions of the army erupted on Sunday, hundreds of people have been killed in the capital city Juba. UN deputy spokesman Haq indicated on Thursday that there were unconfirmed reports of several students killed by security forces at Juba University. According to a spokesman for the university, several hundred students have stayed on the university campus and have requested protection from UN forces. Between 2,000 and 5,000 civilians have also gathered at the Kator complex in Juba. They have also requested help from the UNMISS mission. In turn, more than 15,000 people have sought shelter at two UN and one World Food Programme (WFP) compounds in Juba.