By Shivangi Acharya
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India is holding diplomatic talks with Iran and taking other measures to help shield its exporters from the impact of attacks on ships in the Red Sea by the Iran-aligned Houthi group in Yemen, a government source said on Wednesday.
The attacks have slowed trade between Asia and Europe, disrupting supply chains. The Houthis say they are acting in solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza and have threatened to expand the attacks to include U.S. ships as the war between Israel and the militant Hamas group rages for a fourth month.
Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar held talks in Iran on Monday which he said had touched on the Red Sea situation.
“The defence ministry has improved surveillance (in the region) and the ministry of external affairs is diplomatically negotiating this very well,” said the government source, who requested anonymity.
The finance ministry’s banking division will also make it easier for exporters affected by the disruption to get credit, he added.
“The idea is to ensure credit flow to exporters is maintained as cargoes are getting delayed and transit is costing more,” the source said.
The foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.
The Red Sea, which leads to the Suez Canal, lies on the key east-west trade route from Asia’s manufacturing hubs to Europe and onto the east coast of the Americas. About 12% of world’s shipping traffic accesses the Suez Canal via its waters.
India’s defence ministry is providing protective escorts to Indian container ships in the region and the Indian Navy has responded to at least two attacks and hijacking attempts on merchant vessels in the Arabian Sea.
The government source said trade volumes from major ports had not been affected so far, but ships were having to take longer routes to avoid the attacks.
(Reporting by Shivangi Acharya; Writing by Shivam Patel; Editing by Gareth Jones)