When we last looked at the INS Tabar, it was reported that they had taken out a pirate mothership. Then reports came out that their target was in fact a Thai trawler that was sunk by mistake. Now, the latest reported by India’s TIMES NOW is that the ship may have been a trawler that was in the process of being hijacked by pirates, which means the Indian navy engaged…
What would you call it? A potential target-to-be? An inactive combatant? It becomes very murky in cases like this, where vessels in action might be caught up in a deteriorating situation. It would be one thing if the Ekawat Nava 5 either was fired on by mistake without any pirates nearby, or else engaged after the pirates had claimed her, but if the Tabar came on the scene in the middle of an action, then she reached her it was chaotic, confused. Decisions needed to be made, quickly, and without as much info as would have been useful to help make the right choice.
By means of example, let’s assume we have an officer on patrol, and this cop comes across an assault. If this policewoman sees this altercation, and then one party draws on the other, then it gets out of hand so fast that she has no time or chance to separate the two and get a straight answer out of them as to what’s going on. The only likely result of whatever action is taken is going to be a lot of second-guessing when it’s examined afterwards.
Even if the Tabar is found to have behaved in a negligent manner, which doesn’t seem likely yet, should there not be allowances here? It’s hard for a pirate these days to claim a military-purposed vessel with which to go on the account, and with the number of active cases lately off the Somali coast the odds were in favor of the Tabar meeting an unfriendly. Worst case, the Ekawat Nava 5 was still resisting the pirates, and in the course of the rescue friendlys took fire.
This is the sad reality of any conflict: Nothing’s neat and tidy with clearly marked targets, and when you enter the fray you’re likely to do collateral damage to anyone unlucky enough to be in the wrong spot. And any action off Somalia is likely to be truly messy because it involves irregulars in a fluid theater, with no clear boundaries or guidelines available at the moment you need them.
Special thanks to Cheryl for sending up the signal flags about the latest on this matter.