NEW DELHI: Foreign minister

S Jaishankar

will travel to Iran on Monday amid fears of an escalation in the West Asia conflict as the US and UK launched air strikes on Houthi targets in


. The Houthis, who are backed by Iran, have threatened to respond leading to speculation that the


war could lead to a wider regional conflict.
India’s diplomatic balancing in the aftermath of the eruption of the Israel-Hamas war in October has seen the government maintain regular contacts with Tehran over the conflict and also bilateral issues.

Iran has strongly condemned the air strikes in Yemen, saying these will fuel insecurity and instability in the region. The Houthis have targeted ships linked not just to Israel but also others in the Red Sea, while expressing solidarity with the Palestinians. India has strongly backed freedom of navigation in the Red Sea.
Jaishankar and his US counterpart Antony Blinken had spoken on Thursday, shortly before the air strikes on Houthis were launched, expressing concern over the threat to freedom of navigation. Jaishankar’s visit though was planned well before the conversation.

According to the state department, they discussed shared concerns over reckless Houthi attacks in the southern Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, which threaten the free flow of commerce, endanger innocent mariners, and violate international law. “The secretary emphasised the Red Sea is a major commercial corridor that facilitates international trade and welcomed increased cooperation with India in defending freedom of navigation in the region.”

India has so far refrained from making any comment on the air strikes carried out in response to illegal Houthi attacks on vessels transiting the Red Sea and with support from the Netherlands, Canada, Bahrain, and Australia.

Watch S Jaishankar to visit Iran next week after conversation with Blinken; Houthi & Gaza to be discussed

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