The United States has carried out air strikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen for the second consecutive day. The day before, the United States and Britain had jointly attacked 28 Houthi positions. But on Saturday morning, only the US fired Tomahawk missiles at the Houthis' radar facility. After these attacks, many of the world's largest shipping companies have stopped sending their ships through the Red Sea.
This is likely to affect exports of basmati rice and other commodities from India. On the export front, India is already tottering.
Houthi rebels have been attacking cargo ships in the area since November last year in the name of supporting Hamas in the Israeli-Hamas war. According to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the attacks affected ships bound for some 40 countries.
MSC and Maersk, two of the world's largest shipping companies, currently refuse to send their vessels through the Red Sea. After the renewed attack, some companies even turned back their ships midway.
Besides petroleum products, India's exports through the Red Sea and Suez Canal include basmati rice and tea. About one-third of India's container exports and 15% of total exports go through this route. This is the shortest route for export from India to Europe and the east coast of the United States. Shipments from India to some destinations have more than doubled since the Houthi attacks began, according to exporters' organization FIEO.
The 192-km long Suez Canal is the shortest route between Asia and Europe. The second alternative route takes 12-14 days longer via the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa. This has increased the cost of transportation and insurance premiums for vessels. Therefore, some countries led by the US have launched a joint operation ‘Operation Prosperity Guardian’ to protect the ships.
Supporting the new US attacks, Linda Thomas Greenfield, the US representative to the UN Security Council, said the attacks were aimed at maintaining stability in the Red Sea region. The US does not want to see more wars in the region, but an attack on a ship of any country would not be acceptable. According to President Joe Biden, the attack is a message to Iran and Yemen. Further action will be taken if the Houthi attacks continue.
The attacks were followed by a missile fired by Houthi rebels, but it did not hit a ship, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. However, after the bombing of Houthi positions, it is believed that the scope of the war may increase. The rebels say five of their men have been killed in two days of attacks.