World Affairs

Understanding China’s Resilience in the Red Sea Crisis and Its Implications for India

Red Sea crisis

As the conflict has dangerously spilled over into the Red Sea crisis less than four months after Hamas’ aggressive assault on Israel, India and the world face serious economic and security challenges.

On 19 October 2023, the Houthis, who are believed to be backed by Iran, joined forces with Hamas against Israel. As soon as Houthi missiles were launched against Israel, the US Navy became involved, intercepting them.

He initially claimed to have only attacked Israeli ships, but other ships were also targeted. 

 Yahya Saree, a Houthi spokesperson, took responsibility for the attacks and said they would continue. Soon, Houthi attacks on commercial vessels became more common in the Red Sea.

A strategic chokepoint in the Red Sea crisis

the Red Sea serves as a vital global maritime route between Asia and Africa.

In the north, the Suez Canal and the Sinai Peninsula are crucial, while in the south, the Bab el-Mandeb strait leads toward the Gulf of Aden (old name for Yemen).

Merchant vessels from a variety of nations have been targeted by Houthi militants in the Red Sea, particularly in the Bab el-Mandeb strait, a crucial economic chokepoint. These assaults have affected India’s maritime trade as a whole, as well as one of the world’s busiest shipping routes.

Responses from around the world

As a response to these attacks, the US and UK launched joint strikes on 11 and 22 January. The US also launched eight separate strikes.

India’s early response to the Red Sea Crisis was balanced and muted. External affairs minister S Jaishankar’s visit to Tehran on 15 January signalled India’s willingness to explore diplomatic solutions. As long as it remains critical of the Houthis’ violence, it has not joined the US-led multinational naval coalition in the Red Sea.

Things quickly changed, however, when pirate attacks against commercial vessels returned to the region.

In addition to diplomatic measures, India is now using its powerful naval capabilities to resolve the issue . The involvement of Indian crew on two attacked vessels, MV Chem Pluto and MV Sai Baba, has greatly influenced New Delhi’s decision to take a stricter approach. As part of its biggest deployment in the area, India has positioned two top-of-the-line warships in the Gulf of Aden and a minimum of ten warships in the northern and western Arabian Sea, accompanied by surveillance aircraft.

Would that solve India’s economic problems in the region? Not quite.

Despite India’s efforts, securing sea lanes remains an elusive endeavour. Iran and the US may face a direct confrontation as the crisis escalates.. After three American GIs were killed by Iraqi militants in Jordan on 28 January, this likelihood has increased significantly.

In the Red Sea region, preventing trade sabotage is a pressing global concern.

Whose trade is being disrupted? Red Sea crisis

​According to Xeneta, a firm that benchmarks ocean freight rates, the current increase in shipping costs has surpassed those seen during the Covid-19 pandemic whHouthi attacks on commercial ships are adversely affecting India’s maritime trade, causing a severe strain on the global economy.en supply chains were significantly disrupted. In fact, in just 50 days since the crisis began, shipping costs have skyrocketed by over 200 per cent due to the diversion of ships through the Cape of Good Hope. However, there is another consequence to this rerouting that is not immediately obvious – a 30 per cent increase in emissions.

India relies on the Red Sea route through the Suez Canal for trade with Europe, North America, North Africa, and parts of the Middle East. It accounted for 50 percent of India’s exports (Rs 18 lakh crore) and 30 percent of India’s imports (Rs 17 lakh crore) in the last fiscal year in terms of exports and imports. There cannot be any overstatement of the economic significance of the Red Sea to India.

Despite the rampant attacks, the Houthis have made a tacit commitment not to attack Chinese or China-bound ships or Russian vessels. However, what merits more attention is that they are not indiscriminately attacking them. This is indeed true, based on the data shared in other reports, and confirms Mohammed al-Bukhaiti’s assertion that Chinese and Russian interests in the region will be protected. New Delhi should be concerned about more than meets the eye.

Marlin Luanda’s curious case

Houthis’ recent missile attack on Trafigura’s Marlin Luanda shows geoeconomics is not just about international trade.

An estimated 91,000 metric tons of Russian naphtha was loaded on the Marlin Luanda in the Greek bay of Laconia. A portion of the cargo was discharged in Egypt and the remainder was bound for Singapore.

Following the Houthi attack, India swiftly responded to the distress call, extinguishing a fire that saved 22 Indians and one Bangladeshi.

In the Marlin Luanda case, fresh strategic thinking is required. Containers carrying Russian fuel to other countries are attacked, but containers carrying Russian fuel to China are not. This explains the unnerving silence of an unfazed China. Beijing’s absence from the Red Sea crisis suggests it may be benefiting from it.

If the crisis is resolved, Beijing stands to gain from the restoration of freedom of navigation and security of sea lanes-in typical Chinese fashion.

By all indications, it is a relatively low-risk situation for Moscow, with the country’s shipments sailing largely uninterrupted despite the Red Sea crisis, as Russia has commented on closely watching. The Western air strikes on Hamas and Houthis have been condemned vehemently by Russia, instead of calling out their violence. As a result of the Red Sea crisis, Russia and Iran have strengthened ties.

As well as North Korea, Iran has been supporting the Russian military with its Shahed Drones.

Additionally, oil prices, which had fallen for months, have risen by 10 percent since Houthis began attacking commercial ships.

Taking the next step

New Delhi sees this geopolitical potpourri as an opportunity despite rerouting’s economic consequences.

ed al-Bukhaiti’s assertion that Chinese and Russian interests in the region will be protected.

New Delhi should be concerned about more than meets the eye.

Considering the recent commitments made by India and France, it is indeed time for strategic sea lanes of communication to be secured. If Donald Trump returns and the US turns inward, there will be compelling economic logic for countries with the highest economic stakes to strategize the security of sea lanes in the Red Sea. If that works, the US and Saudi Arabia could make a synergistic hostage deal.

As a result, India, France, and the UAE or India-France-UK could create new forms of nimble plurilaterals with a focused objective and efficient labor divisions. It will be necessary to strengthen maritime securitisation in a complexly bifurcated world in order to create such a framework that goes beyond mere semantics.

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Editorial Director
I'm Shruti Mishra, Editorial Director @Newsblare Media, growing up in the bustling city of New Delhi, I was always fascinated by the power of words. This love for words and storytelling led me to pursue a career in journalism. In this position, I oversee the editorial team and plan out content strategies for our digital news platform. I am constantly seeking new ways to engage readers with thought-provoking and impactful stories.

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