S Jaishankar reacts to ships attacks in Red Sea: ‘Direct bearing on India’s energy’

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External affairs minister S Jaishankar on Monday described the recent attacks on ships in the vicinity of India as a matter of “grave concern” to the international community and said such threats directly impact the nation’s energy and economic interest.

Addressing a joint press conference in Tehran with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian, Jaishankar said the “fraught situation” would not benefit any group.

“We have even seen some attacks in the vicinity of India. This is a matter of great concern to the international community. Obviously, it also has a direct bearing on India’s energy and economic interests. This fraught situation is not to the benefit of any party and this must be clearly recognised,” the EAM said.

Referring to the recent merchant vessel attacks in the Red Sea by Iranian-backed Yemen’s Houthi rebels amid the Israel-Hamas war, Jaishankar stressed the fact that the issue should be “speedily addressed”.

The external affairs minister’s remarks came a day after Houthis struck a US-based ship off the coast of Yemen in the Gulf of Aden. A day earlier, Houthi fired an anti-ship cruise missile toward an American destroyer in the Red Sea. The US and the UK last week launched air strikes targeting the Houthi positions in Yemen.

Jaishankar, who arrived in Tehran for the high-level exchanges between the two sides, said that both India and Iran are concerned about recent events in West Asia and emphasise the importance of preventing further escalation of violence and hostilities in the region.

He said the “deeply concerning” situation in Gaza amid Israel-Hamas was a subject of discussion.

“The loss of civilian lives, especially that of women and children was our primary focus. There is a visible humanitarian crisis that needs to be addressed and the creation of sustainable humanitarian corridors is the need of the day,” he said.

“India itself has delivered shipments of relief material to Gaza and contributed to the UNRWA,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Union government has set up an interministerial group anchored at the commerce ministry to monitor the crisis in the Red Sea.

Most Indian exporters, including shippers of merchandise and basmati rice, are already taking a longer route to access European and Middle-Eastearn markets, going around the Cape of Good Hope, which has increased shipment costs, officials said.

The inter-ministerial committee, led by an additional secretary-level officer, met exporters and logistics providers last week to discuss plans to keep shipments going, Union commerce secretary Sunil Barthwal said. The committee consists of representatives from ministries of defence, shipping and external affairs.

The Indian Navy has also enhanced the deployment of its frontline ships and surveillance aircraft for maritime security operations in view of the maritime environment in the critical sea lanes including the North and Central Arabian Sea.

Over the issue of the Israel-Hamas war, Jaishankar reiterated India’s support for a two-state solution, where the Palestinian people can live freely in an independent country within secure borders.