Unpredictable situation in Arabian Sea, India mounts sea-air patrols
The Brahmos land attack missile carrying INS Kolkata, INS Kochi, INS Mormugao, INS Chennai and INS Visakhapatnam were deployed.
With Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza showing no signs of abating and Iranian proxies targeting commercial shipping in the Red Sea and Arabian Sea, the situation on the high seas off West Asia remains on razor’s edge, officials monitoring the developments said on Thursday.
Given the threat to sea lanes of communication in the Arabian Sea, the Indian Navy has now deployed five top front-line guided missile destroyers to monitor the situation from the Red Sea to the Indian western coast. While the Brahmos land attack missile carrying INS Kolkata, INS Kochi, INS Mormugao, INS Chennai and INS Visakhapatnam have been deployed, the Indian Navy has also been carrying out surveillance using Boeing P8I anti-submarine warfare aircraft and an unarmed version of the Predator drone with a focus on vessels that could be used by Iranian proxies to target commercial ships. The Indian Coast Guard, on its part, is using Dornier surveillance aircraft and off-shore patrol vessels to maintain deterrence in the Indian exclusive economic zone (EEZ) on the western coast.
Also read: Navy to carry out 'forensic analysis' of ‘drone attack’ in Arabian Sea, deploys destroyers
While US aircraft carrier Gerald Ford along with its strike force is operating from the Mediterranean Sea, its other aircraft carrier Dwight Eisenhower is off the Gulf of Aden to deter the Houthi ballistic missile and drone challenge to commercial shipping in the Red Sea. Even though US-led Operation Prosperity Guardian has been able to knock down Houthi missiles in the skies, countries such as Spain, Italy, France and Japan are operating under their command with Chinese warships off the coast of Djibouti maintaining distance from the entire fallout of Israel’s war on Gaza. The Chinese have three warships deployed off Djibouti but they have tried to stay away from potential conflict points. However, the Indian Navy is proactively committed to securing the sea lanes of communication in the Arabian Sea, having deployed INS Kolkata near the Bab el-Mandeb chokepoint on the mouth of the Red Sea, INS Kochi in the south of Yemen’s Socotra Island, INS Mormugao in the western Arabian Sea and INS Chennai in the central Arabian sea. INS Visakhapatnam was tasked to patrol the north Arabian sea and left the Indian coast two days ago after an Iranian loitering ammunition Shahed 136 hit chemical tanker MV Chem Pluto 210 nautical miles off Dwarka in Gujarat.
The drone hit on MC Chemo Pluto led to Indian vigil being widened and apart from deterring the Iranian proxies from attacking commercial shipping, the Indian Navy is also taking action against black shipping and protecting the commercial vessels from Somali pirates near the Socotra Islands. MV Chem Pluto is currently undergoing repairs in Mumbai.
The five top-of-the-line destroyers are currently being fuelled by MV Swarnmala, a 25,000-tonne oil tanker, which has been hired by the Indian Navy. The civilian tanker has a massive fuel and lubricant capacity as compared to Indian Navy’s tankers such as the INS Deepak. While Indian ships -- deployed across the extended EEZ up to 200 nautical miles off the coastline -- are dominating the Arabian Sea, its Boeing P8I multi-mission aircraft along with long-endurance unarmed Predator drones are constantly surveying vessels in the sea up to the Gulf of Aden to identify suspicious ships and dhows used for targeting commercial shipping by the Shia Houthis in Yemen, Shia Kaitab Hezbollah in Iraq and by Tehran. The Iranian proxies, particularly the Shia Houthi militia, are targeting vessels in the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea against Israel’s war against the Sunni Hamas group in Gaza. The Iran-backed Shia Hezbollah group has also opened a front with Israel on its northern border. With the US Navy being able to foil missile attacks of Houthis, Maersk mega-shipping company is planning to resume operations through the Red Sea rather than take a roundabout route via the Cape of Good Hope. Nearly one trillion dollars worth of oil and goods trade passes through the Suez Canal annually and any threat to shipping leads to an increase in cost of goods transportation and rise in insurance premiums for commercial shipping.