From The Frying Pan into The Fire


By Dr R Neerunjun Gopee

If there’s one issue that almost dominated conversations as we met family and friends during the end of year festive season, it was assuredly the extreme, oppressive heat heightened by equally high humidity. There was no respite as we transitioned to January, in fact it seemed to get even worse, and in parts of the island was accompanied by thunderstorms, lightning and heavy rains with unprecedented flooding.

Global Conflicts – Continuing Turmoil and Ongoing Wars. Pic – Shekhawati Live

Both literally and metaphorically, to use a phrase commonly taught during the schooldays of my generation, from the frying pan into the fire! Similar weather phenomena, involving extreme cold as well, are alas happening all over the world. Experts say that over and above the natural cycles, much of what is taking place can be ascribed to the climate change that is impacting the globe, and which is the result of unbridled human activities and exploitations of natural resources.

As if these were not enough trouble, the beast in man keeps surfacing in fight-to-death competitions for power, fame, money, conquest, and domination, especially in the world of politics. We need go no further than our own shores to witness the acrimonious narratives that have been making the waves and that will no doubt accentuate and become more strident, dirty even, as we approach the next election. It is a forlorn wish to hope for a modicum of wisdom to be infused into the discourses – which one could justifiably expect from ageing politicians –, and that is a sad comment in regard to our upcoming generations who need more guiding vision than dark meaningless rhetoric.

*  *  *

Globally too…

However, matters seem to be no better at the global level either, where old conflicts persist along with new ones that reason says ought not to have been – but then who cares about reason in an atmosphere of hardened, even atavistic, ideological positionings? For example, on land along with the Ukraine war that is now in its second year, the Middle-East is again on fire triggered by the October attack on Israeli citizens as they were innocently enjoying a festival. No one is venturing to make a prediction of when there will be a resolution, but such an eventuality keeps receding as stances become increasingly rigid on either side.

On the other hand, there are four hotspots that have the potential to escalate and complicate further an already troubled world situation. One is the attacks from Yemen on ships in the Red Sea, and recently a renewal of Somalian piracy in the Arabian Sea.

In Asia, against the backdrop of the ongoing China-Taiwan confrontation has erupted one between the Chinese and Philippine navies, over the disputed Spratly Islands where the Chinese have already built infrastructure. In a speech delivered by Philippines’ president Marcos, he has vowed that his country will not give in to the Chinese at all. Besides, the right to global free navigation in the South China Sea is already in dispute.

*  *  *

India as first responder in the Indian Ocean

As reported in an online report by Aaron Matthew Lariosa on January 7, 2024, titled ‘Indian Navy Retakes Merchant Ship From Armed Hijackers in the Arabian Sea’ the Indian Navy sprang into action when a ship was hijacked in the Arabian Sea which forms part of the Indian Ocean. The report is as follows: 

‘Indian Navy commandos secured the hijacked Liberian-flagged MV Lila Norfolk last week after a 24-hour confrontation off the Somali Coast in the Arabian Sea. This swift response comes as New Delhi reinforces its presence in the area, surging ships and aircraft to deter attacks on international shipping in the Western Indian Ocean Region.

Five to six armed hijackers boarded Lila Norfolk on Thursday, which was sailing 450 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia. The crew of the Lila Norfolk, composed of 15 Indian and six Philippine nationals, sheltered from the hijackers in the bulk tanker’s citadel and were unharmed during the entire ordeal. Indian naval forces deployed the destroyer INS Chennai (D65) as well as several helicopters and aircraft, including an American-built P-8 maritime patrol aircraft and a MQ-9B SeaGuardian drone, in response.’

Several reports in the Indian media have given extensive coverage to this serious incident, accompanied by graphic or live images of the dramatic rescue operation carried out by Marcos – marine commandos of the Indian Navy. They took over and ‘sanitized’ the ship, and the hijackers had no other option but to flee – la queue leu leu as is so expressively described in French!

Subsequently, the Indian Navy has increased the number of warships in the region to ten, adding seven more to the three that were already present there, and there will be a corresponding enhancement of aircraft and drone surveillance according to information available.

It is worth noting that this is not the first time that the Indian Navy has carried out such a rescue operation. It has done so in the past several years in other hijackings in the region by pirates. 

This episode reflects the increasing relevance of the Indian Navy in the overall maritime security of the Indian Ocean, a matter of concern to us as well as we would surely realise. This is so in the context of a possible resurgence of piracy in the region, which had been at a low key in recent years, and which now is deemed may be on the rise given the vulnerability of that region with the events happening in the Red Sea. Both these upsurges will have an inevitable impact on the economy as the experts have warned, and as a small island nation there is no doubt that we stand to be hit quite hardly. Any move to ensure regional maritime security should be welcome indeed.

It may be noted that this first responder role is a part of the broad humanitarian approach that has characterized India in its global role and presence, which in recent years is having greater visibility.

As the External Affairs of India, Shri Subramaniam Jaishankar, notes in his book The India Way, India’s ‘greater capabilities and confidence’ are building up its ‘unique brand as a generous power,’ one that ‘fits well with the embrace of the world that is inherent in Indian thinking and reinforces its positioning as a power that can bridge divides.’

Further, he points out, ‘this approach… has been expressed especially through initiatives responding to natural calamities… as a first responder to crisis situations (Author’s note – for example, supplying the world with vaccines and medicines, a significant proportion as grants to over 70 countries)… India has surely but steadily assisted in underwriting the global commons… through a physical presence supported by declared respect for international law and norms.’ In this respect, one may note the All-Women Indian peacekeeping contingent in the Congo, as well as the long-standing contribution of Indian soldiers, both as part of the UN peacekeeping forces in different countries.

The larger paradigm, to quote Jaishankar again, is the ‘rebalancing of the world order’ that is taking place. It would be foolhardy for tiny Mauritius to miss the opportunity of benefiting from that evolving scenario.

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 12 January 2024

An Appeal

Dear Reader

65 years ago Mauritius Times was founded with a resolve to fight for justice and fairness and the advancement of the public good. It has never deviated from this principle no matter how daunting the challenges and how costly the price it has had to pay at different times of our history.

With print journalism struggling to keep afloat due to falling advertising revenues and the wide availability of free sources of information, it is crucially important for the Mauritius Times to survive and prosper. We can only continue doing it with the support of our readers.

The best way you can support our efforts is to take a subscription or by making a recurring donation through a Standing Order to our non-profit Foundation.
Thank you.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *