And now the Chinese navy in Somali waters…

December 17, 2008

Chinese naval ships may soon be steaming into the Gulf of  Aden to join a growing fleet of international warships fighting  Somali pirates.

A first probably for a navy that has long confined itself to its own waters, the move is certain to stir interest in the strategic community stretching from New Delhi to Washington.

Chinese state media on Wednesday quoted Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei as telling a UN Security Council meeting that Beijing  was considering sending naval ships on escort duty in the troubled waters.

On the face of it, as Beijing would argue, too much should not be read into its naval deployment off the Somali waters. Theirs will be one of a number of navies patrolling the region such as
the United States, India, Greece, Saudi Arabia, France, Russia, Britain and Pakistan.

Besides, Chinese vessels have been attacked by the pirates in recent months giving them as much justification for escort duty as anyone else operating there. The latest was on Tuesday when a Chinese fishing vessel was seized in the Gulf of Aden, along with three other ships including a yacht.

But China’s military has been the subject of relentless scrutiny and any move it makes will be closely watched especially in regional capitals such as Tokyo and New Delhi. India, one of the biggest navies in the Indian Ocean boasting of an aircraft carrier group, has long looked over its shoulder watching for signs of a creeping Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean.

If nothing else, its role in helping Pakistan build its Gwadar port on the Baluchistan coast  is a matter of concern for Indian navy planners who worry that the deep water port is a key element of China’s “String of Pearls” strategy of  extending its influence from the South China Sea through the Indian Ocean and on to the Arabian Gulf through  a chain of outposts.

The strategic message of the deployment in the Gulf of Aden is not lost on Chinese experts either. The state-run China Daily quoted a Chinese military strategist as saying it would be a good opportunity for the navy to get into the thick of action in waters far away from home.

“Apart from fighting pirates, another key goal is to register the presence of the Chinese navy,” Prof Li Jie, a naval researcher, told the paper.

Is that partly what this is burst of activity in the region is about? Are navies flexing their muscles, stepping out of their comfort zones, running up alongside unlikely partners? Imagine Iranian and U.S. naval vessels operating in the same waters against the same enemy?


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Certainly Chinese Naval deployment in Indian ocean is not a great news for India. China is a strong ally of Pakistan, and its important for Pakistan to capitalize on this and offer Chinese ships the services they require in Pakistani ports. Also, develop further the Gwadar deep sea port. Only close cooperation with China can ensure Pakistan would contain India. Pakistan Navy already has a strong presence in the Arabian sea and should further expand to the Indian ocean. After Mumbai attacks, some voices in India advocated a Naval blockade of Karachi, I guess Pakistan Navy should start to be more assertive and challenge India in such a way that it should never even think of the idea of Karachi naval blockade.

Posted by Umair | Report as abusive

The opportunity for a fire and forget accident between naval vessels increases with the arrival of each new independently controlled contingent.
Perhaps they could all do double duty and keep foreign raider fishing boats out of the 200 mile Somali economic fishing zone..or just blow them out of the water Indian Navy style..
The latest naval escalation of firing from helicopters at pirates aboard a captured vessel seems like a risky business for the ship’s crew. Surely it would be better to have armed security aboard to PREVENT the pirates boarding. tsk tsk.

Posted by craterbaiter | Report as abusive

Cheers! The deployment of Chinese Navy overseas is long overdue. It is over-dued for more than 150 years now compared to other major powers of the world.

Posted by David | Report as abusive

There is no such thing as “Arabian Gulf”. It’s called the Persian Gulf.

Posted by John | Report as abusive

The presence of chinese navy was needful whence United States,India,Russia all are present in the mission of dominating Somali piracy.It was one side of the view-another is to avail the opportunity of showing muscles power in favour of Pakistan.

Posted by PRANAB HAZRA | Report as abusive

A nice opportunity for a bit of power projection by the Chinese – a little bit like the recent Russian excursion to Venezuela.

I suppose the good thing about it is that the Chinese aren’t likely to be shy about blowing Somali criminals out of the water. A much better approach than offering them asylum in the UK!

Posted by Jason | Report as abusive

You’re disgusting pathetic Pakistani. The nations are in Somalian waters to fight against Pirates, not the war. Whatelse can the world expect from a state like Pakistan to capitalize on others efforts. You have no guts to show your presence to the World directly therefore you depend on Friends and Militants.
Pakistan is nothing but a Scavenger who thinks to eat after someone has a prey and ate.

Please be informative before making any statements, in fact Indian Navy already captured a bunch of Pirates last week, where the hell was Pakistan at that time?
Have a see:  /12/13/india.pirates/index.html

Why would India be concerned about China’s Navy presence in Indian Ocean. Damn the Ocean name itself says whose Ocean it is… lol there isn’t any Ocean name by Pakistan / China etc.

Posted by Blogger | Report as abusive

You surely are an Indian idiot, arent you? anyways, Indian Navy has no business venturing into Somali waters. They better loeave that to world powers like US and China and return to patrol the Mumbai coast. Who knows, more terrorists might be on their way to attack Indian cities via sea.

Posted by Umair | Report as abusive

Umair, Your “all-weather-ally” China declined when you went for Bailout (civilized word for begging) $6 Bn. Finally IMF have to rescue you!? Hope you spend those money to buy flour/rice/oil. Dont spend them on buying toys for terrorists. And dont spend on sending pak Navy boat to Somali waters. We responsible countries will take care of that. Even we will rescue Pakistani merchant vessels.

Posted by Manoj | Report as abusive

thats the good news that some one come against that pirates i seen bloggers comments that where the pakistani when the indian navy rescue cargo ship. as you knwo the fact that wasnt at our boundry which happens and indian navy also dont have guts to reach somalia and finish those pirates as you knwo in past indian soldier was hijacked by rebeles in seira leone west africa and that time pakistani army rescue these 500 soldier from rebels.when some one challenge then pakistani always prove them selves so my suggestion try to hijakced any ship in pakistani coastal then u can see the differnt result.

Posted by riyaz | Report as abusive

@riyaz, get your facts right. there were 21 Indian soldiers of 300 UN peace keepers kidnapped throughout sierra leone in 2000. you should know UN peace keepers rule of engagement. And it was not Pak rescued they were rescued by negotiations. Dont take credit for something never happened. You guys never moved on from 1971 defeat.

Posted by Amar | Report as abusive

Did you ever watch the movie “BlackHawk Down”. Pakistani UN peacekeepers were deployed in Somalia and in Mugadishe there was a special forces operation conducted by US forces to capture Farah Aidid, the war lord. It went wrong and the US ground force got bogged down by insurgents, this was back in mid 90s. Pakistani forces moved out of there headquarters to rescue the Americans. Even the US asserted the professionalism and courage of Pakistani UN peacekeepers.
Even more, Pakistani peacekeepers in 1993 were inspecting a weapons depot in Somalia. They were doing the most dangerous work and the warlords fired on the UN troops killing 24 Pakistani peacekeepers. Such sacrifices have always been remembered in the world. In Bosnia the coward Dutch Army left the UN Safe Area and resultantly a genocide of 8000 muslim men took place. I assure you if it was Pakistan Army, it would have fought back against the serbs and protected the unarmed civilians in the UN safe are.
So its proved that its Indians who never moved on from 1971 and still stuck in the past. Pakistan today is a nuclear power, remember Kargil 1999, 2001-2002 border stand-off. 1971 is long history, wake up to the realities of Pakistan.

Posted by Umair | Report as abusive

More than half of that so-called country called Pakistan is not under direct control of the so-called civilian govt and the rest is feudal society of 18th century with GDP generated by terrorism, drug smuggling & fundamentalism. This country can’t even survive on its own & recently went with a begging bowl to all its allies only to be snubbed. Now they have a IMF loan & hope they use it to provide some food & shelter for their people rather than spend on its ISI. This is the hard reality of Pakistan Umair.You can’t eat a nuclear bomb for your supper. All roads of terrorism lead to Pakistan even according to the US & UK.

Posted by Indian | Report as abusive


Keeping adding more to your crimelist kargill,parliament attack,mumbai,guesthouses for dawood ,some more here & there so that indian government is pressured to act someday or the other.Your leaders say you may not be able to sustain a war even for a week considering your food security, oil stock, weapons procurement, medical personnel etc etc.India’s policy is non intervention in any conflicts,bangladesh was created because of your problem not by us. We stepped in on humanitarian grounds & nothing more.

Majority of Hindus have suffered brutality in both Islamic & Christian Rulers,Our wealth was snatched from us & taken both by persia & others.Africans, Hindus,red indians, aboriginess, Latin Americans have been the most exploited race in this world.Despite all the crimes in history we have been peaceful & chalked our destiny on our own.

The fact is china is superior to india & india to pakistan.Indians want fairness & justice,we are interested in pakistan only to extent whether your political manipulation leads to killing our citizens in cold blood & murdering them in brutual fashion.A war with India is a war about your existence & in 2 days time it will be a nuclear flare up & in 4 days you will cease to exist as also killing more than 200 million indian citizen.

Slaughtering Indian citizens for your domestic goals is wrong & atrocious,People who attacked mumbai should be brought to book for sake of justice & dawood should be hanged either by pakistani or by indian government.If you have the most professional & brave army then kill the people who killed our innocent citizens.

If these mastermind continue to abscond freely justice has to be brought by other means including war on pakistan despite every negative consequences to this world.The threat of nuclear attack has increased because of your unprovoked attacks on us & inaction assuming all your crimes will go unpunished.

Posted by Vijay | Report as abusive

On an operational level, I doubt Chinese navy can match the sophistication of other nations in Somali waters nevertheless to say Indian Navy! But the psychological boost is an important matter and I believe is the part of the GREAT INDIAN OCEAN GAME. They can also grab some headlines with real time action and experience the challenges of warm Indian Ocean currents.

The Somali pirate issue has been going for ages in Gulf of Aden, but all of a sudden it becomes a big issue especially after the oil super tanker attack. Why?? Read the recent visit of Indian PM to Yemen, Iranian boat’s adventurisms, eminent US withdrawal from Iraq and US reluctance to get involve in this menace. The deployment of Chinese Navy also need to be connected to the Mumbai terror attack – Is it a sort of assurance to Pakistan navy that they are here to support Pakistan – in case of an air attack or blockage from India Navy – Possible.

If pirate concern is the real issue, my impression, is that Chinese need top concentrate on Malacca strait and their current capacity is enough for that. But straying to Western side of Indian Ocean needs much more “Blue Water” capacities and I believe this particular deployment will not have any impact on pirates other than a small move on their part linked to the grand Chinese idea of “STRING OF PEARLS” which again, I think, will not sustain especially when Japanese, Australian and Indian navies are cooperating each other under the mentorship of US policy makers.

Another reason is economical – unbalanced growth of Chinese economy will soon touch its brake. It is only a matter of time when their export oriented development declines and once the cash reserve drains; there is no more room to think about Blue Water naval issues.

About the Pakistan Navy, I think they are as insignificant as Iranian navy or other Middle Eastern navies. They don’t have much role to play other than to secure their own exclusive zones and may be help to control the real Masters of Somalian pirates – which traces back to the kingdoms of Gulf. The only beneficiaries of this pirate menace are the “Arab Dons” and unfortunately Africans are helpless though it happens in their territorial waters.

The solution to pirate issue is the need of a BIG BOY in Africa – a complete black nation (neither Egypt nor South Africa) which can pressurise its neighbours politically or economically. May be a stable Kenya or its role is worth considering as a part of the solution!

Posted by Teby Mathew | Report as abusive

I highly doubt that in the long run the Chinese are going to opt to be on the side of any country that makes its decisions based upon some “religious” dogma. The Chinese are historically non-religious, and therefore distrust anyone who is……

Posted by Jim | Report as abusive

If the Indian Navy interdicts another “Pirate Mothership” packed to the gills with “Thai Fishermen” maybe the “Chinese Navy” should consider sending a submarine as part of its anti-privitation flotilla.

Posted by Brendan | Report as abusive

At last, China flexes her muscles in naval
power, notwithstanding a mere escort or
standby mission. But I am interested to
see if this Chinese fleet would be willing
to salvage other endangered ships of non-
Chinese nationalities, given its terms of
reference to fight pirates who are in harm’s
way to Chinese merchant ships.

Posted by Tracy Lloyd | Report as abusive

@umair, You are proud of 1999 kargil. It is most cowardly act from Pakistan. sending army regulars in civilian cloths as terrorists. It is most disrespect any country can do to their soldiers, ie degrade ones uniform. After denying later your army picked the bodies of those unfortunate brave soldiers. My due respect to foot soldiers. It is their stupid/coward chiefs. There are plenty in Pak army.

Posted by Amar | Report as abusive

China can afford to pay the pirates the money they demand which would more or less same amount that is spent on deploying navy. They can negotiate better with pirates, than any other nation. Somebody have to publish the make of arms used by pirates!!
THe main reason for sending navy is, there is shipment destined for Iran/Pak conatining things which they dont want world to know. They want to save from embarasement if that ship is caught by pirates. They dont want to in situation of MV Faina!!

Posted by Amar | Report as abusive

At least someone is using their noodle.

Posted by Cowboy | Report as abusive

The Chinese ships departed today. I think that there are a few countries taking advantage of this situation to get there ships in the area. The problem will not be solved with these ships for a number of reasons. With so many ships, from so many countries that “don’t play well” together, they will spend more time and effort watching each other than the pirates. Another fact is, no matter where you are in the world, the criminal mind basically works the same way. These pirates will adapt. They will move to further waters, up and down the African coast, and adapt their intelligence capability. With the financing gained from ransom payments, the pirates will simply know where the naval vessels are and direct their attacks accordingly. Another problem is, any time a criminal enterprise is this profitable, there will be many more to join the trade. This should have been learned with drug smuggling from South and Central America, but who says the U.S. Government learns?

Posted by Michael | Report as abusive