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EU state praises India for freeing ship from Somali pirates

The South Asian country’s navy has rescued a Bulgarian merchant vessel that was under the control of hijackers for three months

Bulgaria has thanked India for freeing a merchant vessel hijacked by Somali pirates in December amid ongoing turmoil in the Red Sea region. The ship, the MV Ruen, had seven Bulgarian nationals on board.

The EU nation’s foreign minister, Mariya Gabriel, thanked the Indian Navy for its “support and great effort” in a message on X (formerly Twitter) on Sunday. “We continue to work together to protect [the] lives of the crew,” wrote Gabriel, who also serves as deputy prime minister. Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar responded by saying “that is what friends are for.” 

India’s INS Kolkata warship intercepted the Ruen on March 15, three months after it had been hijacked by pirates. “In a reckless hostile act, the pirates shot down a drone and fired at the Indian Naval warship. In a calibrated response [in accordance with] International Laws, Kolkata disabled the ship’s steering system and navigational aids, forcing the pirate ship to stop,” the navy said in a statement.

After hours of negotiations, all 35 pirates were forced to surrender and 17 crew members were safely evacuated, the statement added. The vessel, which is managed by Bulgarian company Navigation Maritime Bulgare, was cleared of “illegal arms, ammunition and contraband” and brought to India with 37,800 tons of cargo worth around $1 million. The rescue mission was conducted almost 2,600km west of the Indian coast.

The development comes amid an expanded role for the Indian Navy in the Arabian Sea region. The area has witnessed turmoil in recent months, with rising instances of piracy and attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who have vowed to target any vessel linked to Israel passing through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden shipping lanes.

Meanwhile, the US and its allies have carried out airstrikes against the Houthis in retaliation.Earlier this month, the same Indian warship rescued another vessel, the Liberia-owned True Confidence, after it was hit by missiles fired by the Houthis, killing three people.

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Indian Navy Warship INS Kolkata arrives at Hamad Port during the Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition & Conference (DIMDEX) in 2022.
India sends warships to Yemen’s coast amid Red Sea tensions

The Kolkata also assisted the Liberia-flagged container MSC Sky II, which caught fire after being hit by a projectile near the port city of Aden.

New Delhi has deployed around a dozen warships in the Gulf of Aden and the northern and western Arabian Sea regions. The South Asian nation, which could lose $30 billion in exports for the fiscal year ending March due to the Red Sea crisis, has vowed to become a “net security provider” in the region.

“The Indian Navy continues to ensure safety and security of the mariners in the Indian Ocean Region,” Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said following the rescue of the Ruen.

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