Indian defence minister Rajnath Singh said New Delhi will ensure the safety of shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean region as the Navy deployed three warships to the Arabian Sea after a drone attack on an oil tanker off India’s coast last week.
The Indian Navy said it has deployed three warships—INS Mormugao, INS Kochi, and INS Kolkata—in various areas to maintain a deterrent presence after the MV Chem Pluto, a Liberian-flagged oil tanker with 21 Indian crew members, came under a drone attack on 23 December.
India has also deployed unmanned aerial vehicles for maritime surveillance MQ-9B SeaGuardians, military aircraft P8Is, short takeoff and landing aircraft Dorniers, helicopters, and Indian Coast Guard units.
“India is in the role of a net security provider in the entire Indian Ocean region. We will ensure that the maritime trade in this region rises from the sea to the heights of the sky. For this, together with friendly countries, we will keep the sea lanes safe and secure for maritime commerce,” Singh said at the commissioning ceremony of INS Imphal, the third among the four Project 15B stealth guided missile destroyers.
Another commercial ship, MV Sai Baba, sailing under the Gabon flag with 25 Indian crew members on board, came under a drone attack in the Red Sea on Sunday.
Singh said India has taken these incidents “very seriously” and will take “strict action” on those who have carried out attacks.
“The Indian Navy has increased surveillance of the sea. Whoever has carried out this attack, we will find them even from the seabed and strict action will be taken against them,” he said.
Singh linked the drone attacks with India’s growing economic and strategic power.
“Nowadays the turbulence in the sea has increased a bit. India’s growing economic and strategic power has filled some forces with jealousy and hatred. The government of India has taken the recent drone attack on Liberian flag tanker MV Chem Pluto in the Arabian Sea and the attack on MV Sai Baba in the Red Sea a few days ago very seriously,” Singh said.
MV Chem Pluto was carrying crude oil from Saudi Arabia and was bound for India’s New Mangalore port when it came under attack. It was anchored safely at Mumbai for inspection and repairs.
The Indian Navy said the analysis of the area of attack and debris found on the ship points towards a drone attack. However, further forensic and technical analysis will be required to establish the vector of attack, including the type and amount of explosive used.
The ship has been cleared for further operation by her company-in-charge and will undergo repairs for the damages.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday spoke to Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, expressing concerns about the situation in West Asia.
“I held a good conversation with my brother Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on the future of strategic partnership between India and Saudi Arabia. We exchanged views on the West Asia situation and shared concerns regarding terrorism, violence, and the loss of civilian lives. We agreed to work together for peace, security, and stability in the region,” Modi said in a post on the social networking site X, formerly Twitter.
As Israel’s bombing in Gaza continues, killing over 20,000 Palestinians, Houthi militants in Yemen have increased their attacks on merchant ships passing through the Red Sea.
The US Central Command has said that 15 such attacks have been carried out since 17 October by the Houthis, who have fired anti-ship ballistic missiles on ships passing through the narrow strait between Yemen and northeast Africa leading toward the Red Sea.
Houthis claim that they are targeting ships affiliated with Israel.
The US has launched a joint naval operation to protect the shipping lanes in the Red Sea. ‘Operation Prosperity Guardian’ includes forces from the United Kingdom, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles, and Spain to jointly address security challenges in the southern Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said.
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