Will India Join US Led Coalition for Surveillance of Gulf Choke Points?
Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford announced US will form coalition to secure shipping in the Gulf Choke Points, even as Indian Navy has deployed ships for the purpose.
There could be an outreach to India to join the coalition given the close defence cooperation between the two countries.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported that the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford announced on 09 July to a group of reporters that the United States is working on creating a coalition for safeguarding the waters in the Strait of Hormuz, which separates, Persian Gulf from the Gulf of Oman and Bab el Mandeb, between Yemen and Djibouti and Eritrea in the Horn of Africa given the enhanced threat posed to maritime traffic in this zone with series of attacks on ships occurring in the past one month at port and on sea.
“We have a pretty clear concept of what we want to do.” The coalition initially may comprise of key partners such as the UK and France and could be gradually expanded. “This will be scalable. So, with a small number of contributors we can have a small mission and we’ll expand that as the number of nations that are willing to participate identify themselves,” he said.
The U.S. military would provide “maritime domain awareness” – intelligence and surveillance information – to ships of coalition partners conducting patrols in vulnerable zone. Plans were being discussed for creation of the coalition, but this is the first time that the proposal will be considered.
Mark Esper, the acting secretary of defense is believed to have discussed the proposal during his visit to NATO HQs, however no commitment was made by a member state.
Meanwhile Major General Mohammad Baqeri, Iran’s armed forces chief of staff, threatened on 9 July that the British seizure of an Iranian oil tanker in Gibraltar “will not go unanswered”. Baqeri said Iran will respond at a “proper time and place”.
British Royal Marines boarded the ship, Grace 1, off the coast of Gibraltar on 04 July and seized it over accusations it was breaking sanctions by taking oil to Syria.
Indian Navy has launched Operation Sankalp on 21 June days after attacks on two tankers at sea in the Gulf of Oman.
A Ministry of Defense press release indicating that the Indian Navy has deployed, in the Gulf of Oman, to re-assure Indian Flagged Vessels operating/ transiting through Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman following the maritime security incidents in the region. IN Ships Chennai and Sunayna have been deployed in the Gulf of Oman and Persian Gulf to undertake Maritime Security operations.
In addition, aerial surveillance by IN aircraft is also being undertaken in the area. The Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region which was launched by the IN in December 2018 at Gurugram, is also keeping a close watch on the movement of ships in the Gulf region. After a holistic review of the situation, DG Shipping has issued two advisories on 13 and 16 June 2019 to all Indian Flagged Vessels operating in the Strait of Hormuz and Persian/ Arabian Gulf Region advising Indian Flagged ships to undertake appropriate protection measures.
India is however unlikely to join the US led coalition as in the past for counter piracy operations off the Somalia Coast, Indian Navy operated independently. There is no major change in policy to suggest that this time around India Navy will be part of the US led group.