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  • 24 Feb, 2024

Indian Navy rescues Iranian ship in Arabian Sea

The South Asian country's navy has stepped up patrols along key shipping routes amid growing geopolitical unrest in the region.

The Indian Navy’s warship INS Sumitra, which has been deployed in the Gulf of Aden on an anti-piracy operation, rescued a hijacked Iranian vessel on Monday and ensured the release of crew members and the boat itself, amid ongoing tensions in the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea.

The patrol vessel responded to a distress call from the Iranian fishing boat Iman, which had been boarded by pirates along the east coast of Somalia, a navy spokesperson said, adding that the crew were being held as hostages. Sumitra intercepted the fishing boat and “ensured the successful release of all 17 crew members along with the boat,” the Indian Navy said in a statement. The vessel was then sanitized and released for onward transit.

In a similar incident on Friday in the Gulf of Aden, the Navy sent its guided missile destroyer INS Visakhapatnam in response to a distress call from a British oil tanker that had caught fire. The MV Marlin Luanda had 22 Indian and one Bangladeshi crew aboard. The Houthis have taken responsibility for this attack.

These latest incidents have occurred against the backdrop of a significant increase in New Delhi of its presence in the Arabian Sea region, amid Yemeni Houthi rebels’ strikes on passing merchant ships, as well as ongoing piracy. Houthi militants, allegedly backed by Iran, have vowed to continue targeting Israeli and US-linked ships “until the siege on Gaza” is lifted. In response, the US and UK launched dozens of attacks on the rebel bases in Yemen. The Houthis have since claimed responsibility for a missile attack on the warship USS Lewis B Puller on Sunday evening.

Earlier this month, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, on a visit to Iran, stressed that the attacks by the Houthis, who are allegedly backed by Iran, are a matter of “great concern” to the international community. The Indian diplomat’s counterpart Amir-Abdollahian informed Jaishankar that Yemeni leaders have said that as long as the “war and genocide” continues in Gaza, they will only stop ships that are sailing towards the “occupied territories” to deliver arms for the war.

 


New Delhi raised the alarm last month when MV Chem Pluto, a Japanese-owned vessel with several Indians aboard, came under attack from suspected drones 400 kilometers west of the Indian coast. In the aftermath of that incident, Defence Minister of India Rajnath Singh vowed to collaborate with allies to “make maritime commerce safe and secure.” Up to a dozen Indian warships are now patrolling the crucial shipping lanes, according to media reports.