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Indian Navy proactively deploying fleet to keep pirates at bay: Navy Chief

HYDERABAD (PTI): The Indian Navy is proactively deploying its fleet to keep the pirates away and confine them in their waters, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Hari Kumar said on Wednesday.

After unveiling the indigenously manufactured Drishti 10 Starliner Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) by Adani Defence and Aerospace for the Navy, Adm. Kumar said there have been about 35 drone attacks on ships largely on Israel-owned or flagged or related vessels in the Red Sea, North and Central Arabian Sea during the last 40 - 42 days.

Without taking names, he said the immediate neighbours of India collectively hold a very large inventory of UAVs and therefore, it's only prudent that the country and its armed forces continue to harness resident expertise in the domain.

"Recently we have had only two incidents (attempts of pirates to highjack ships). Both were not Indian flagged vessels, but in the second case we had Indian crew so we had to respond. So we boarded and rescued the crew...So we are now very proactively deploying our units there to ensure that these pirates keep away," he told reporters.

The Indian Navy on Friday thwarted the attempted hijacking of Liberian-flagged vessel MV Lila Norfolk in the North Arabian Sea and rescued all its crew members including 15 Indians.

The Chief of Naval Staff further said the anti-piracy operations have been going on since 2008 and the Navy has deployed over 105 ships over the period.

Hari Kumar, replying to a query on drone attacks on ships, said they are doing forensic analysis of the debris of the three ships which were attacked.

Earlier addressing the gathering, he said it is only prudent that the country and the armed forces continue to harness "our resident expertise" in the domain of UAVs as "both our immediate neighbours" collectively hold a large inventory of UAVs.

The importance of autonomous systems in the rapidly evolving and dynamic, tech-infused wars of the contemporary world needs no emphasis, he added.

Their disproportionate impact is being witnessed in the ongoing conflicts in Europe and West Asia, he said.

Further, the "recent incidents" (an apparent reference to the hijack attempts) in the North and the Central regions of the Arabian Sea amply demonstrates the challenges posed by such systems when they fall in the hands of non-state actors and terrorists, he said.

Today, autonomous systems are becoming a preferred choice in the order of battle for nations across the globe, he said.

While the Indian Navy has been operating UAVs over the last two decades, the delivery of 'Drishti' symbolises the Navy's vision to be a 'atmanirbhar' force, he added.

With state-of-the-art sensors, enhanced endurance, advanced communication capabilities as well as new age technologies, Drishti could be a potent force multiplier, adding capability in undertaking intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations across the Indian Ocean region, he said.

He expressed confidence that 'Drishti' would play a pivotal role in shaping future naval operations towards safeguarding India's national maritime interests in the Indian ocean region.

Speaking on the occasion, Union Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt said the Drishti 10 (Starliner) would help in keeping a close watch on the seas.

Praising the role of 'Marcos' in saving crew members when pirates attempted to take control of a ship in the Arabian Sea recently, he said it shows that the country is becoming self-reliant and that self-confidence is building up.

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