Release our sailors, India tells Iran

New Delhi reaches out to Tehran over 18 seamen on board detained oil tanker
India has reached out to the Iranian government to help release 18 Indian crew members on board the British oil tanker seized by Iranian forces in the Straits of Hormuz, the government said here on Saturday. “We are ascertaining further details on the incident. Our [Embassy] is in touch with the Government of Iran to secure the early release and repatriation of Indian nationals,” said External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, a day after the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) soldiers boarded and seized the Stena Impero . The ship’s captain and 17 other crew members detained on board are Indians, said an Iranian official, quoted by news agencies. The official listed five others with Russian, Philippines and Latvian nationalities. According to the Iranian government, the Stena Impero was involved in a collision with a smaller Iranian fishing boat in the Straits, which the IRGC called a “violation of international regulations”. “After it was seized, it was transferred to Iranian shores to undergo legal procedure,” the IRG said in a statement. The Stena Impero is owned by a Swedish company, Sten Bulk, but was flying the British flag. U.K. officials say they believe that the seizure by Iran was in retaliation for the seizure of an Iranian tanker Grace 1 off Gibraltar by British forces earlier this month. The oil tanker is alleged to have violated U.S. sanctions on Syria. Four Indians among the crew on board the vessel were detained but later freed on bail without charges. The seizures of both tankers in the past few weeks highlight one more aspect of how India is being affected by growing tensions between the U.S. and its allies, and Iran. Indian sailors on various ships are under threat from the tit-for-tat actions on the high seas, along with the lakhs of Indians living in the Gulf region who would face the consequences of any open conflict. For the past few weeks, Indian air carriers have avoided overflying parts of Iranian airspace after American FAA strictures, which has already meant crores in losses.

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