The Indian Navy warship INS Visakhapatnam has rescued the crew of a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo vessel that came under drone attack in the Gulf of Aden on January 18th, 2024. The merchant vessel was carrying a crew of 9 Indian nationals when it sent out a distress call after being struck by an explosive drone launched by Houthi rebels.
Timeline of Events
The sequence of events unfolded as follows:
- On January 18th, a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo vessel with 9 Indian crew members on board was sailing through the Gulf of Aden, near the coast of Yemen
- The vessel suddenly came under attack by an armed drone operated by Houthi rebels
- The drone struck the vessel, causing an explosion and fire on board
- The captain of the vessel sent out a distress call, appealing for immediate assistance
- INS Visakhapatnam, an Indian Navy destroyer operating in the region, received the distress call and immediately sailed to the location of the attacked vessel
- Indian Navy personnel boarded the vessel and extinguished the fire, securing the safety of all crew
- No casualties were reported in the attack
- The cargo vessel is now being escorted by the Indian Navy warship as it sails towards safer waters
India Sends Naval Assistance to Gulf of Aden
The Gulf of Aden has seen a dangerous rise in piracy and unrest in recent years. To counter the threats, India has deployed a naval task force comprising over 10 highly advanced warships and patrol vessels to the region.
The naval assets carry out round-the-clock patrolling across millions of square miles, safeguarding Indian interests and ensuring safe passage for Indian-flagged commercial vessels transiting through the area.
The patrols have proven highly effective, as evidenced by the rapid response to the distress call from the Marshall Islands vessel. India remains committed to maintaining security and stability in the region in coordination with partner countries.
Why Was the Vessel Attacked?
The explosive drone strike is the latest in a series of attacks in the Red Sea region attributed to Houthi rebels based in Yemen. The Houthis are an Iran-backed militant political movement that has been engaged in a violent civil conflict against the Yemeni government.
Over the last month, the frequency of Houthi attacks against commercial vessels sailing near Yemen has sharply increased:
- December 29, 2023 – Oil tanker struck by bomb-laden drone
- January 3, 2024 – Saudi fuel transport targeted by armed drone
- January 8, 2024 – Cargo ship attacked by two drones loaded with explosives
Analysts believe the latest uptick in attacks is retaliation after the US launched deadly airstrikes against Houthi targets in Yemen. The drone strike campaign appears intended to disrupt shipping traffic and threaten global energy supplies passing through the Red Sea bottleneck.
So far, the strikes have avoided targeting vessels flying American or Saudi flags. The Marshall Islands vessel with Indian crew represented an easier target of opportunity for the rebels.
What Happens Next?
In the aftermath of the latest attack, several developments are anticipated:
Heightened Naval Presence
More warships from the American, British and French navies are expected to converge in the Red Sea area to expand patrols and serve as a deterrent against further strikes. India will also reinforce its naval assets in the Gulf of Aden in coordination with partner countries.
Naval Assets Heading to Region
|INS Vikramaditya Carrier Battle Group
|FNS Charles de Gaulle Carrier Group
|HMS Queen Elizabeth Carrier Strike Group
|USS Nimitz Carrier Strike Force
The heightened naval presence will dramatically expand aerial surveillance capabilities to monitor Houthi activities and movement of armed drones near the Yemeni coast.
United Nations Action
The UN Security Council is deliberating a strongly-worded resolution condemning the reckless drone attacks by Houthi rebels. The UN is likely to reiterate its support for the legitimate Yemeni government and demand an immediate halt to actions threatening commercial shipping lanes.
Further US Retaliation
Having already conducted retaliatory strikes earlier in January, the US may launch additional waves of attacks targeting Houthi drone launch sites, storage depots, command centers and key leaders. The strikes would aim to degrade rebel capabilities to conduct further drone strikes in the short term.
However, military action alone cannot solve the complex Yemen crisis. The UN will continue its diplomatic efforts to broker lasting peace between the warring parties and alleviate the dire humanitarian situation faced by millions of Yemenis.
The Indian Navy’s prompt actions averted a possible disaster, saving 9 Indian lives after the merchant vessel came under attack in the Gulf of Aden. The incident highlights the extremely volatile situation prevailing in region while also demonstrating India’s naval prowess and commitment to protecting its interests.
As the Yemen conflict continues with no end in sight, we can expect more turbulence in the adjacent waterways. The world must come together to not only ensure freedom of navigation along critical shipping routes but also strive to establish stability in the war-ravaged Middle Eastern nation for the sake of long-suffering Yemenis.
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