It’s not often people describe India as a haven of peace. But look at the region around India and it’s almost starting to look that way with conflicts stretching from the Red Sea and Israel and running all the way to Myanmar. The greatest threat this week comes from US fury over the killing of three servicemen in Jordan by a militant-fired missile. The Americans say the attack was carried out by “radical Iran-backed militant groups” and are demanding quick revenge. “A deadly drone attack that cost American lives requires a swift, precise and meaningful military response,” says Bloomberg.

Take a short hop to the Red Sea where the Indian Navy firefighters and sailors of the INS Vishakhapatrnam helped douse fires on an oil tanker, the Marlin Luanda, after it was struck by a missile fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebels. A few days earlier, the Vishakhapatnam was on the spot to help another ship, the Genco Picardy, after it was also hit by a Houthi missile.

Head east to Lailenpi in Myanmar, just 5 km from the Indian border. Here, Myanmarese rebels bombed a Myanmar army camp using cheap, off-the-shelf drones and put the army to flight. The Myanmar soldiers fled across the border into India. A plane sent to repatriate one group of soldiers crash-landed at Mizoram’s Lengpui Airport. Myanmar’s rebels are using easily-available weapons like drones that can be bought on Amazon and scoring big victories against the country’s well-equipped army who are reportedly reluctant to fight their own countrymen.

Worst of all is, of course, the Gaza war where Israel has already killed more than 26,000 Palestinians, according to local officials. The Israelis say they’re aiming for “total victory” over Hamas after the savage October 7 attack that left some 1,400 dead. But not only is the Israelis’ devastating Gaza bombardment causing massive destruction, it seems aimed at ensuring the Palestinians won’t be able to live in Gaza. The International Court of Justice’s order to Israel to contain death and damage in Gaza appears to be having no impact. Talk about a ceasefire and negotiations to retrieve the remaining estimated 130 hostages continues but nothing has materialised yet.

If all this isn’t enough, Iran last week fired a missile 280 km inside Pakistan, killing nine people. The attack surprised the Pakistanis because the two countries’ foreign ministers had met earlier in the day and the Pakistan and Iranian navies had just concluded joint naval exercises a few hours earlier. The Iranians insist all nine people killed were Iranians belonging to the terrorist Jaish al-Adl. The Pakistanis struck back but the self-described “brotherly nations” have patched up. Today, their foreign ministers met and the Iranian pronounced there was: “No doubt militants in Pak-Iran border areas (were) supported by ‘third countries’.” No prizes for guessing the third country referred to is us!

Houthi rebels

In the Red Sea too, the Iranians are the key suspects, accused of backing the Houthi rebels. There’s said to be a tacit Iranian-brokered understanding that the Houthis won’t attack Russian and Saudi ships and cargoes. It’s reckoned the Houthis bungled by striking the Marlin Luanda which was carrying Russian naphtha. Possibly that happened because of the ship’s opaque ownership: it sails under the Marshall Islands flag-of-convenience, its owner is London-based Oceonix Services and the cargo belonged to global trading giant Trafigura. The ship had a crew of 22 Indians and one Bangladeshi. Till now, the Russians have sailed through the Suez Canal into the Red Sea, untroubled by fears of Houthi attack.

For India, it’s crucial the Russians keep sailing through the Red Sea. About 50-55 oil tankers carry Russian crude to India monthly and other ships bring coal and sunflower oil. If they had to make the much longer journey round the Cape of Good Hope, it would hike transport costs considerably. Another ship carrying Russian crude oil to India had a narrow escape in the Gulf of Aden over the weekend when a missile landed close-by.

Where do all these conflicts on land and sea leave India? We’re a large country and are more focused on the coming general elections than nearby wars. But a strike against the Iranians, for example, could be like a match in a powder keg. That would be enough to inflame the Middle East and send the price of oil shooting through the roof — if nothing else. And small wars can swiftly metamorphose into much larger, blazing hot ones. Let’s cross our fingers that things don’t deteriorate further but it may prove a vain hope.