US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, discussed the need to ensure freedom of navigation in the Red Sea, in a meeting in Munich on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on Friday, per the US government.

“Secretary Blinken highlighted that the respective US and Indian approaches to maritime security in the Red Sea are mutually reinforcing and play important roles in safeguarding economic stability in the region,” according to Matthew Miller, Spokesperson, US State Department.

Yemen-based Houthi rebels have been attacking cargo vessels in the Red Sea since November 2023 to show support to Palestinians in Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza. This has forced thousands of ships, many from India, to reroute around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, that has led to a sharp increase in transportation time and freight costs for shipments.

Indian exporters have been complaining about a several-fold rise in their shipment costs to Europe, US’ East Coast, North Africa and parts of the Middle East as shipping companies are not only charging more for the longer route but also imposing many levies. While this has not yet reflected in the export numbers as older orders are being honoured, if the conflict continues, things may deteriorate.

India is not part of the US-led task force established to deter Houthi attacks on commercial shipping transiting the southern Red Sea region but the Indian Navy has its own deployments of warships in the Gulf of Aden and Western Arabian Sea.

The Secretary and External Affairs Minister also discussed ongoing work to ensure lasting peace and security in the Middle East, the statement noted.

“..There’s a lot that we need to talk about.  I’m coming out of the Middle East, myself… I think it’s important today that the very complicated issues there, be addressed in an effective manner and the conflict does not escalate.  And, of course, a whole host of other issues – issues in this part of the world, issues in the Indo-Pacific – that we need to talk about,” Jaishankar said in his remarks before the meeting with Blinken.

Blinken said India and US were working closely on a whole host of vital priorities which include increasing mutual prosperity, advancing democracy and human rights, addressing climate change, upholding together the rules-based international order.

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