Mains Practice Question


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Discuss how the current phase of Red Sea shipping attacks differs from prior threats posed by Somali pirates in the region. What impact will it have on India?
A Simple Introduction about Somali Pirates
Somali pirates, also known as Somali sea robbers, are criminals who engage in maritime piracy off the coast of Somalia in the Horn of Africa. They became particularly notorious for their activities in the late 2000s and early 2010s, posing a significant threat to international shipping in the region. 
It is the central part of the answer and one should understand the demand of the question to provide rich content.

The recent attacks on shipping vessels in the Red Sea by Yemen's Houthi rebels mark a worrying trend, distinct from the past threats posed by Somali pirates in the region.

Houthi Attacks vs. Somali Piracy

  • Motivation: Somali pirates, active between 2000-2016, primarily aimed for ransom money. Their attacks lacked a clear political agenda and were driven by economic motives.
  • Tactics: Somali pirates typically hijacked ships and held crews hostage for ransom negotiations. Their targets were diverse, with no specific political affiliation.
  • Eradication: Through international cooperation, enhanced security measures, and targeted actions against pirate bases, Somali piracy was significantly curbed by 2016.

Houthi attacks, on the other hand, are

  • Politically Driven: These attacks are a direct consequence of the ongoing Yemen civil war and the Houthi rebels' conflict with the Saudi-backed Yemeni government. They target vessels potentially linked to Israel or its allies.
  • Military Tactics: The Houthis employ drones and missiles to target ships, showcasing a more sophisticated and potentially more dangerous approach.
  • Uncertain Resolution: The underlying political conflict remains unresolved, making a long-term solution to Houthi attacks challenging.

Impact on India

While the Indian government downplays the immediate impact on its maritime trade, the situation warrants close monitoring:

  • Potential Disruptions: Escalating attacks could disrupt shipping routes in the Red Sea, a crucial artery for global trade, potentially impacting Indian imports and exports.
  • Increased Insurance Costs: Heightened security risks could lead to higher insurance premiums for ships traversing the Red Sea.
  • Geopolitical Tensions: The conflict adds another layer of complexity to the already tense situation in the Middle East, potentially impacting India's regional partnerships.
 The ending of the answer should be on a positive note and it should have a forward-looking approach.
The current situation in the Red Sea demands a diplomatic solution to address the underlying Yemeni conflict. International cooperation to ensure safe passage through the Red Sea may also be necessary. India, a major maritime player, will need to adapt its strategies to navigate these evolving security challenges.
Other Points to Consider 

Israel-Hamas conflict

Red Sea



Previous Year Questions

1. Sea is an important Component of the Cosmos’ Discuss in the light of the above statement the role of the IMO (International Maritime Organisation) in protecting environment and enhancing maritime safety and security. (2023)

2. Increasing cross-border terrorist attacks in India and growing interference in the internal affairs of several member states by Pakistan are not conducive for the future of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation).” Explain with suitable examples. (2016)


05-Apr 2024