Washington: Pirate activities have extended as far as the waters off the coast of India, making it difficult for patrolling and effective action, a US official has said.

"Pirate activity has even extended as far as the waters off the coast of India. This increase makes it difficult for naval or law enforcement ships and other assets to reach the scene of a pirate attack quickly enough to disrupt an ongoing attack. There is just too much water to patrol," said the Assistant Secretary of State, Andrew Shapiro.

In his remarks on 'Piracy Off the Horn of Africa' at the Center for American Progress- an eminent American think-tank, Shapiro said "in the cat and mouse game" that is modern day piracy, the international community have responded as well.

"Since discovering the use of mother-ships, international navies now seek to identify and interdict mother-ships when possible. These are very delicate engagements, however.

"With hostages on board and with mother-ships sometimes capable of travelling thousands of miles, interdictions and contested boardings of mother-ships by international navies are at times not possible. Yet we are making progress in isolating these vessels when discovered and boarding when necessary," he said.

Shapiro said the issue of piracy has become a significant component of America's diplomatic engagement with countries.

"It is a shared challenge that many countries have an interest in seeing addressed. The issue, therefore, has an ancillary diplomatic benefit, as it often proves to be a useful subject for us to discuss with countries with which we are looking to expand our security relationship," he said.

The US, he said, has established Combined Task Force 151 a multinational task force charged with conducting counter-piracy naval patrols in the region.

 It operates in the Gulf of Aden and off the eastern coast of Somalia, covering an area of over one million square miles.

In addition, there are a number of coordinated multinational naval patrols off the Horn of Africa.

NATO is engaging in Operation Ocean Shield, the European Union has Operation ATALANTA, and other national navies in the area conduct counter-piracy patrols as well, he said.

"On any given day up to 30 vessels from as many as 20 nations are engaged in counter piracy operations in the region, including countries new to these kinds of effort like China, India, and Japan.

"US and international naval forces have thwarted pirate attacks in progress, engaged pirate skiffs, and successfully taken back hijacked ships during opposed boardings," the official said.

The United States, has also sought to create a safe transit corridor for commercial shipping vessels, Shapiro said.

"US Naval Forces Central Command or NAVCENT has worked with partners to set up a nearly 500-mile long transit corridor through the Gulf of Aden."

The corridor has helped reduce the number of attacks within the transit zone but it also has had the unfortunate side effect of pushing pirate activities further out to sea, he said.