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Jaishankar raises Red Sea security issue with Iranian counterpart

External affairs minister says threats to safety of maritime commercial traffic in Indian Ocean have direct bearing on India's energy and economic interests

Jaishankar raises Red Sea security issue with Iranian counterpart
[Source photo: X/Amirabdolahian]

India’s external affairs minister S Jaishankar has raised the issue of maritime security in the Red Sea with his Iranian counterpart amid growing concerns that disruption in shipping lanes may result in considerable economic loss for India.

Jaishankar, who was on a two-visit to Tehran as part of the ongoing high-level exchanges between the two sides, said there was a “perceptible increase in threats to the safety of maritime commercial traffic in this important part of the Indian Ocean.”

“We have even seen some attacks in the vicinity of India. This is a matter of great concern to the international community,” he said in a joint press statement with Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian after a meeting. 

“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 recognized,” Jaishankar added. 

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Amirabdollahian said he underscored the importance of security in international waters for Iran in the meeting with Jaishankar. 

“The White House’s continued support for war crimes by the Zionists paves the way for the spillage of instability across the region,” Amirabdollahian said. 

The Iran-backed Houthis, who control a large part of Yemen, have been attacking commercial ships linked to Israel or bound for Israeli ports in response to Israeli bombardments in Gaza that have killed over 20,000 people, most of them civilians. 

At least two India-linked ships came under drone attack in December. While MV Chem Pluto, a Liberian-flagged oil tanker with 21 Indian crew members, was attacked on 23 December off India’s coast, MV Sai Baba, sailing under the Gabon flag with 25 Indian crew members on board, was targeted by a drone in the Red Sea the same week. 

The crisis in the Red Sea is affecting India’s merchandise trade with Europe, the east coast of the US, and Latin America. New Delhi-based think tank RIS (Research and Information System for Developing Countries) has estimated that India’s exports might come down by $30 billion in 2023-24 due to disruptions in the Red Sea trade route. 

The Indian Navy has deployed five warships to the Arabian Sea to secure the shipping lanes.  

Jaishankar discusses Gaza situation with Amirabdollahian

The two sides also discussed the “deeply concerning situation in Gaza.”

“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,” Jaishankar said. 

He welcomed the international community’s efforts to provide humanitarian aid and highlighted India’s shipments of relief materials to Gaza and contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

Jaishankar reiterated India’s long-standing support for a two-state solution, “where the Palestinian people are able to live freely in an independent country within secure borders.”

“I stressed on the need for all parties to avoid provocative and escalatory actions, and to facilitate movement towards dialogue and diplomacy,” he said. 

Regional connectivity

Jaishankar said regional connectivity, which has been a critical pillar of India-Iran relations, was prominently discussed at the meeting. 

“I reiterated India’s interest in benefiting from Iran’s unique geographical position to access markets in Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Eurasia,” he said.

The two sides discussed the prospects of energizing the International North South Transport Corridor, which connects  India, Iran, Central Asia, and Russia via ship, rail, and road. 

On the development and operation of the Chabahar port, Jaishankar emphasized India’s commitment to the project, and how the two sides “can establish a firm, sustainable and long-term roadmap for India’s continued involvement over the coming years.”

“Given the importance of this project for both nations, I emphasized the need to monitor its progress under the direct supervision of the political leadership,” the minister said. 

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