The Chinese navy has started escorting Chinese cargo ships through the Red Sea, according to a shipping company and Chinese state media reports, Voice of America (VOA) reported.
The development comes at a time when various cargo shipping companies have decided to avoid the globally important trade passage citing attacks from Houthi rebels.
Since November, Iran-backed Houthis have launched scores of drone and missile attacks on ships passing through the Red Sea, acts that they say are in support of Palestinian militant group Hamas in the war with Israel.
Significantly, weighing in on recent attacks on merchant ships by armed Houthi rebels and suspected pirates on the Red Sea and western Arabian Sea, experts and distinguished voices from across the world, while commending the prompt response by the Indian Navy to distressed vessels, called out China over the lack of similar rescue missions.
Hailing the rescue of crew from distressed merchant vessel Marlin Luanda in the Gulf of Aden, the experts noted that despite being considered a world power and having a naval base in Djibouti (near the area of the incident), did not respond to the distress call and it was the Indian Navy that demonstrated swift action.
“India takes over. Superpower rising…Stop drooling over China,” Europe-based historian and researcher, Martin Sauerbrey posted on X.
British journalist Mark Urban also called it ‘fascinating’ that India, and not China, has risen to the crisis in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.
“Among the emerging great powers fascinating to see how India has risen to the crisis in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea…China not so much,” Urban posted on X.
A US-led coalition has responded to the attacks with missile strikes on Houthi positions, backed by a collective force from Bahrain, Britain, Canada, France, Holland, Italy, Norway, the Seychelles, and Spain. But they have so far not stopped ships from being targeted, as per VOA.
At a time when most shipping companies have re-routed to go around Africa, doubling costs and shipping times, Sea Legend Shipping, a Qingdao-based company registered in Singapore, is actively promoting its cargo business through the Red Sea.
The company said since January, the Chinese navy has provided security escorts for its five cargo ships in the Red Sea, making it one of the few still operating in the region, according to Chinese media.
In an emailed response to a request for confirmation and comment on the scope of protection being provided, Yuan Mu, a spokesperson for China’s Embassy in Washington, referred VOA to departments directly responsible, according to VOA.
The spokesperson in an emailed response said, “On the whole, China stands ready to work with all parties to safeguard the safety of international shipping lanes.”
Although the Houthis have said that ships from some countries, including China and Russia, can safely pass through the Red Sea, a British oil tanker carrying Russian oil was hit by a Houthi missile and caught fire last week.
Shipping news site oilprice.com reports that even tankers carrying Russian fuel are now avoiding the Red Sea.
About 40 per cent of trade between Europe and Asia goes through the Red Sea and Suez Canal, and about 12 per cent of the globe’s sea trade in oil.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)