Indian warships escorting merchant vessels in the Persian Gulf will remain deployed for the longer term, officials with direct knowledge of the matter said, as tensions between Iran and Western powers rise.
But the two ships, backed by surveillance aircraft, will not be part of a military coalition that the United States is assembling to safeguard the waters off Iran near the Straits of Hormuz, through which a fifth of the world’s oil moves, the two officials said.
“This is not going to stop, the situation being what it is, we will be there for the foreseeable future,” said an official with knowledge of naval deployments.
New Delhi will not be formally joining such a force, in large measure because that would pit it directly against Iran, with which it has had historical political and energy ties. It also has never been part of foreign military task forces, preferring to work under the United Nations flag instead, an official with information of the matter said.
Since June following attacks on tankers that the United States blamed on Iran and Iran-aligned fighters, a charged Tehran denies, the Indian navy ships have been escorting Indian-flagged vessels in and out of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.
“We will be carrying out the force protection measures on our own for Indian-flagged vessels. So far, nearly two dozen ships have been provided security,” the official said.
About 15 Indian ships — destroyers, frigates, corvettes and large patrol vessels — are operating at the entry and exit points of the Indian Ocean, stretching from the Malacca Strait, through which much of China’s trade and fuel is routed, to the Gulf of Aden in the west.