New Delhi: The Indian Navy has deployed task groups comprising frontline destroyers and frigates in the central and north Arabian Sea and augmented its force levels in the region to undertake maritime security operations in view of recent attacks on commercial vessels in key shipping lanes.
The Navy said on Sunday that it has “substantially enhanced maritime surveillance efforts” and that recent incidents including the drone attack on commercial vessel MV Chem Pluto around 220 nautical miles southwest of Porbandar indicated a shift in maritime incidents closer to India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
The additional deployment of the assets including long-range maritime patrol aircraft by the Indian Navy in the region came amid increasing global concerns over the Houthi militants targeting various cargo vessels in the Red Sea against the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas conflict.
The Navy said the overall situation is being closely monitored in coordination with national maritime agencies and asserted that it remains committed to ensuring safety of merchant shipping in the region.
“Task Groups comprising destroyers and frigates have been deployed to undertake maritime security operations and render assistance to merchant vessels in case of any incident,” it said.
Liberian-flagged vessel MV Chem Pluto, with 21 Indian crew members, was the target of a drone attack off India’s west coast on December 23 that triggered security concerns in New Delhi as it came amid the Iran-backed Houthi militants launching strikes on several commercial ships in the Red Sea.
Besides MV Chem Pluto, another commercial oil tanker that was on the way to India came under a suspected drone strike in southern Red Sea on the same day. The vessel had a team of 25 Indian crew.
In another incident, Malta-flagged vessel MV Ruen was hijacked on December 14 by pirates.
“The last few weeks have witnessed increased maritime security incidents on merchant vessels transiting through international shipping lanes in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Central/ North Arabian Sea,” the Navy said.
“The piracy incident on MV Ruen approximately 700 nautical miles from the Indian coast and recent drone attack on MV Chem Pluto, approximately 220 nautical miles South West of Porbandar indicates a shift in maritime incidents closer to Indian EEZ,” it said.
In a statement, the Navy said that in response to these incidents, it has “substantially enhanced maritime surveillance efforts” in the central and north Arabian Sea and “augmented” force levels.
“Aerial surveillance by long-range maritime patrol aircraft and RPAs (remotely piloted aircraft) has been enhanced to have a complete maritime domain awareness. Towards effective surveillance of EEZ, the Indian Navy is operating in close coordination with the Coast Guard,” the Navy said.
“The overall situation is being closely monitored by the Indian Navy in coordination with national maritime agencies. The Indian Navy remains committed to ensuring safety of merchant shipping in the region,” it said.
Against the backdrop of Houthi rebels stepping up attacks on ships in the Red Sea, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi on Friday said it is carefully evaluating all aspects of the unfolding situation in that region.
At the same time, he said India is not part of any multilateral initiative or operation in and around the Red Sea.
“As we said earlier, we value the free movement of commercial shipping, which is one of the fundamental principles underpinning global commerce,” Bagchi had said.
“We are carefully evaluating all aspects of the unfolding situation in that region. Our defence forces are taking necessary measures in this regard,” he said.
Without elaborating, Bagchi had said the defence forces are taking required measures.