US vs Iran: As US flights start to avoid Iran, is the airspace mayhem just the beginning?
Where does India feature in this tension, which can soon snowball into a huge crisis?
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With the US and Iran training guns on each other, and airlines mulling over whether to avoid Iranian airspace, we are all set to see major bedlam as far as air routes are concerned in the coming days.
The Federal Aviation Administration (US civil aviation regulatory body) has now asked US flights to stay away from Iran-controlled airspace over the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.
Most of the eastbound flights are dependent on this route.
Always Buzzing: The Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman are heavy air-traffic area. (Photo: FlyRadar24)
As the airlines are rerouting their flights, air traffic will soon be thrown out of gear and Mumbai airport — which is already under a lot of pressure because of Pakistan’s partial airspace closure — will have to bear the brunt of it. Some Mumbai-New York/Newark flights are also getting cancelled, rerouted and rescheduled at a time when air traffic is at its peak, owing to the vacation season.
It is only logical that other countries will soon issue similar NOTAM (notice to airmen) warnings to avoid that stretch. After Malaysia Airline Flight 17 — a passenger flight — was shot down in 2014 while it was flying over eastern Ukraine, all countries rely on the advice of the US, the UK, France and Germany to avoid airspace risk.
The US has accused Iran of downing a Global Hawk aircraft in the Gulf region.
According to reports, a civil aircraft was operating very near the aircraft (within 45 nautical miles), which explains the gravity of the crisis.
Iran admitted to having shot it down as it had allegedly violated Iranian air space. The US military has denied this, saying that the drone was over international waters and not in Iranian space. Iran says the drone aircraft was spying.
This to-and-fro is only the latest in a series of political face-offs the US and Iran have been engaged in of late.
US President Donald Trump has expressed his surprise that Iran could do shoot down a US drone intentionally.
In Deep Waters: The Indian Navy has deployed vessels for the security of our ships travelling the tense area. (Photo: Twitter)
“I think probably Iran made a mistake. I would imagine it was a general or somebody that made a mistake in shooting that drone down... it could have been somebody who was loose and stupid,” he said.
While experts spot a whit of an attempt on Trump’s part to bring tensions down, reports have started surfacing that Trump had actually given a go-ahead for a military strike on Iran — but pulled back at the last minute.
The present crisis was seeded in Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw unilaterally from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers.
The US has been pressuring other countries to bring down their oil imports from Iran. Giving in to the pressure, India stopped importing oil from Iran altogether. When Iran's foreign minister visited India, elections were on and he met then-foreign minister Sushma Swaraj.
The present situation is a crucial one to deal with for new foreign minister S Jaishankar.
While deploying vessels in the Gulf of Oman in the wake of the tension in the area to escort our ships is a timely precautionary measure India has taken, soon we will have to take a diplomatic decision in this regard.