The Episode of the Red Sea Crisis

The essence of the Red Sea for its resources, from being the busiest globalized maritime street to the rivalry of attempted over-agency between Saudi Arabia and Iran for more influence over the waters, among other regional security ruptures, can be written without footnotes in honour of the sea’s branching relevance. 

But what’s been adding more fuel to the fire is its usage as purported leverage by the Houthi Rebels of Yemen, who are adjoining the 2023 Israel-Hamas war to the water’s name, which added another layer of security concerns to the middle-east conflict. 

The Rebels have extended their civil-war playground towards global instability via interference at the southern end of the Red Sea. It launched a debut attack on the Galaxy Leader on November 19, 2023, and in no time, took the Red Sea by storm with its drone and ballistic missile attacks and piracy plans on commercial tankers, pushing the shippers to re-route, causing an inconsistency of trade and supply chain, and nudging the security concerns of various countries.

Economic disruption

The attacks in the Red Sea have significantly disrupted global trade by targeting a critical chokepoint for 15% of the world’s shipping traffic, where the companies are forced to divert vessels around the Cape of Good Hope, increasing the journey time, fuel costs, and insurance premiums, creating a financial burden for both exporters and importers. 

They have disrupted international trade, supply chains, and deliveries of auto companies like Suzuki, Tesla, Volvo, etc.; energy manufacturers like Qatar, Valero Energy, etc.; logistic dealers like FedEx; and retailers like Adidas and Ikea. Adding to the logical and security constraints is the drought at the Panama Canal, adding six extra days to the journey between, specifically for the U.S. 

While some data indicates shipping inflation may be peaking, the economic impacts persist. With global energy giant BP suspending all Red Sea transit, fossil fuel prices have kept rising. 

In the same breath, the attack on the second-largest global ocean shipping company, A.P. Moller-Maersk, has heard 46 warnings from the rebels since November. It has even forewarned of a continued slowdown in the second half of 2024, advising customers to have a “longer overall transit time built into their supply chain.” And despite anti-terror operations by the U.S. and allies against rebel targets, the Houthis have warned that their attacks “will continue until the aggression against Gaza stops.”

For Indian exporters 

The ongoing crisis is having a devastating impact on small Indian exporters, threatening jobs and the country’s export competitiveness, such as for Atul Jhunjhunwala of Kolkata, who has already lost significant orders to competitors in Europe who avoid the exorbitant shipping costs through the Red Sea route. With over 40% of India’s $450 billion exports from small players, job losses have already begun in textile hubs like Tirupur. Exporters are operating on razor-thin profit margins of 3–7%, which are being wiped out by the increased freight rates and shipping times.

The crisis has started to tip the scales in favour of India’s rivals, as Turkish exporters capitalize on their location advantage over Indian firms in European markets, also giving a heads-up to China to gain over India in critical markets. 

The Red Sea crisis threatens India’s basmati and tea exports, with expected price hikes of up to 20% as shipments reroute. While India’s oil trade remains unaffected mainly due to continued Russian imports, agricultural commodities face major disruptions through this critical route. 

An attempt at shuttle diplomacy 

A UN-led peace process in Yemen aimed to end its civil conflict, resume oil exports, pay civil servant salaries, and go easy on the Sanaa Airport and Hodeidah Port constraints. But the Houthi blockades and threats towards Western ships after the U.S./U.K. airstrikes have torpedoed peace hopes, and the sensitivity of the Red Sea raided by the Houthi sentiments has landed the U.N. in a tricky situation where diplomacy faces significant obstacles to ending the 9-year-long civil war. 

Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi warned that the group would start firing missiles at U.S. warships if Washington got more involved in its affairs or targeted Yemen, as per a Reuters report. 

Question on the parties involved

The Houthi rebels’ expanded arsenal of drones and anti-ship missiles has also raised concerns over their sources; suspicions of state support from Iran and potential Chinese links in supplying anti-ship ballistic missiles introduce further complexity. 

Indian Navy in the interest of a global common

The expanding Houthi interdictions and piracy have triggered Indian security concerns about free navigation through the Red Sea. Furthermore, the hijacking of the MV Ruen and a drone strike on the MV Chem Pluto carrying 25 Indian crew inflamed fears of growing threats to commercial shipping. 

Although defiant about directly joining the U.S.-led strikes in Operation Prosperity Guardian, India has projected regional naval power and sanitisation efforts by deploying submarines, ten warships, and surveillance planes on the east coast of the Red Sea. It has also commissioned a hydrographic survey ship and aircraft to monitor the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and a broader region, trying to uphold freedom of navigation. With escalating interstate tensions over navigation on high alert, India’s swelling yet balanced naval presence seeks to temper a dangerous crisis while salvaging vital shipping lanes.

Climatic Sabotage

In another episode, the rebels have been quite successful in infiltrating the Rubymar, a British-registered cargo, with a missile attack on February 18, 2024. The ship carrying 41,000 metric tons of explosive fertilizer was abandoned by the crew mid-sea, which inflicted an 18-mile oil slick in the Red Sea, as per CENTCOM.

The to-and-fro of the backlash

To cut more fluff of maritime blockades, the U.S. military recently countered the rebels by destroying seven mobile anti-ship cruise missiles that were being prepared by the rebels to launch into the sea. With the sanction of British fighter jets, there was a cumulative hit on the rebels via launchers, air missiles, rockets, drones, and an air defence system for safer travel between the Suez Canal (controlled by Egypt) and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait (a chokepoint of another dispute between Eritrea and Djibouti). 

Thickening of the Houthi Rebellion 

The Houthis, even against a wider duo, including Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, and New Zealand, are maintaining a quality arsenal with the assistance of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. 

However, the re-declaration of the Houthis as global terrorists has added to the pressure on international communities who have already been walking on eggshells around the controversy of the water and counter-agency of the attacks. 


One of the most straightforward answers to hold together the thinning thread of peace is to ignore, re-route, and look over new passages like the Ben Gurion Canal Project, a proposed 160-mile-long sea-level canal that would connect the Mediterranean Sea with the Gulf of Aqaba, bypassing the Suez Canal. The Houthi rebels have vowed to continue their attacks, creating unrest in the Red Sea region until more food and medicines are available in Gaza.  

Direct conflict and diplomatic discourse could also be the solution. Still, given the unresolved nature of the Red Sea conflicts, they can also be linked to a variety of cold communications and divergent political interests arising not only from the Israel-Hamas conflict but also from the interconnection of other conflicts that cannot be prioritized simultaneously under the banner of the Red Sea Crisis because it is more of a stacked conflicting narrative that requires attention at different levels of dialogue exchanges to reach a manageable resolution at peace. 

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