Conflict in Yemen: What New Delhi must do
It is significant that external affairs minister S Jaishankar described the drone attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels in Abu Dhabi — which killed two Indian nationals — as a terrorist incident during a phone conversation with his United Arab Emirates (UAE) counterpart. Twice this month, the Indian side has seen that hostilities occurring more than 3,000 kilometres away can have domestic consequences. Earlier this month, the Houthis seized the UAE-flagged vessel Rwabee and its 11 crew members, including seven Indian nationals, and they still remain captive. This week, two Indians were killed and as many injured in the drone attack by the Houthis that targeted an oil storage facility in Abu Dhabi. The Indian side’s description of the incident as a “terror attack” was due to the Indian fatalities.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE are two of the main players in the military coalition that intervened in support of the Yemeni government after the Houthis stormed the country’s capital, Sanaa. These two countries in West Asia are home to around six million Indian expatriates. In the past, India has backed Saudi Arabia’s efforts for a comprehensive resolution of the conflict in Yemen and supported measures to preserve the unity of Yemen through political dialogue. India evacuated the overwhelming majority of Indian nationals from Yemen as far back as 2015, but the spilling over of hostile actions by the Houthis, especially through the use of drones, could have further consequences for Indian expatriates in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. It is, therefore, in India’s interest to take an active role in efforts to address the conflict in Yemen, with which the country has had long-standing relations.