Defence Minister A.K. Antony said on Saturday that the government was taking all steps to secure the release of the sailors being held captive by Somali pirates, even as it continued its ongoing operation against piracy without any compromise.
“We are doing our best to release the sailors held hostage by the pirates. The Centre is doing everything with the assistance of all agencies,” Mr. Antony told reporters.
Terming piracy as a menace threatening the safety of seamen and sea lanes, Mr. Antony said 95 per cent of the country's international trade was through the sea lanes. India could not afford to compromise in its fight against piracy, he said, adding that while all the international navies had been earlier concentrating on the Gulf of Aden, recently there was a shift in their attention to waters closer to the Indian territories.
India being one of the important seafaring nations, its sailors were facing greater risk of being abducted, he said, in response to a question if the government was finding it difficult to negotiate the release of hostages because of its tough stand against piracy. The safety of the hostages was also a major concern, he added.
Observing that the presence of 42 terrorist training camps in Pakistan was a major hurdle to co-operation between the neighbours, Mr. Antony said the government would, however, continue dialogue with Islamabad.
The scheduled resumption of talks between the Defence Secretaries in New Delhi on May 30 and 31 was to carry on the dialogue, he said, adding that dismantling of the terror camps in Pakistan was key to solving problems between the two countries. The country had brought to the notice of the U.S. that a large chunk of weapons being provided by it to Pakistan to fight insurgents on its borders with Afghanistan was being used against India. Though India had differences with China over border issues, the defence exchange programme between the two countries would resume soon, he said.
The Defence Minister said the ICGA would be completed in three-and-a-half years. The cost of the project would be finalised after a detailed report by a consulting agency. “The academy is going to be one of the biggest coast guard institutions in the world.”
To a question on the probe into the Adarsh housing society scam, the Minister said all guilty persons would be punished.