In the wake of multiple attacks on merchant ships navigating through international waters, the Indian Navy has significantly bolstered its maritime surveillance efforts in the Central/North Arabian Sea, reinforcing its force levels.
In a statement released on Sunday (December 31), the Navy outlined its response, stating, “Task groups, comprising destroyers and frigates, have been deployed to conduct maritime security operations and provide assistance to merchant vessels in case of any incident. Aerial surveillance, utilising long-range maritime patrol aircraft and RPAs, has been intensified to achieve complete maritime domain awareness. In pursuit of effective surveillance of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), the Indian Navy is coordinating closely with the Indian Coast Guard,” the statement stated.
Over the past few weeks, there has been a noticeable rise in maritime security issues affecting merchant vessels navigating through international shipping routes in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, and Central/North Arabian Sea. Notable incidents include a piracy event involving MV Ruen, situated approximately 700 nautical miles from the Indian coast, and a recent drone attack on MV Chem Pluto, about 220 nautical miles southwest of Porbandar. These occurrences suggest a shift in maritime incidents toward the vicinity of the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
On 25 December, the Indian Navy issued a statement saying, “Considering the recent spate of attacks in the Arabian Sea, Indian Navy has deployed Guided Missile Destroyers, INS Mormugao, INS Kochi and INS Kolkata in various areas to maintain a deterrent presence.” In response to the drone attack on MV Chem Pluto, the navy has also deployed P8I multi-mission aircraft and Sea Guardian drones to enhance maritime domain awareness.
Emphasising its commitment to ensuring the safety of merchant shipping in the region, the Navy declared it is closely monitoring the Central/North Arabian Sea in collaboration with national maritime agencies. The statement further disclosed that on December 23, a drone attack targeted the chemical tanker MV Chem Pluto, positioned approximately 220 nautical miles southwest of Porbandar. Following the incident, a joint investigation involving various agencies commenced after the vessel reached the Indian coast and docked in Mumbai. Additionally, an unrelated piracy incident involving the MV Ruen occurred approximately 700 miles from the Indian coast.
Houthi rebels in Yemen have been targeting merchant shipping in the Red Sea and the North Arabian Sea, raising concerns about Indian maritime security. Despite American claims, the Iranians have dismissed allegations that a drone launched from Iran struck the MV Chem Pluto in the Indian Ocean. These attacks coincide with efforts by a US-led task force to address similar challenges in the Red Sea. The motive behind the attacks seems to be exerting pressure on the US-led coalition to urge Israel to halt military operations against Hamas in the Gaza war.
In light of the heightened threat posed by such attacks, the Indian Navy is intensifying its efforts to safeguard the region. The Navy remains dedicated to ensuring the safety of merchant shipping and stated, “The Indian Navy is closely monitoring the overall situation in coordination with national maritime agencies.”