Indian Ocean Power Competition

Iran, China and Russia’s joint naval drill in Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Geopolitics in Gulf, US-China trade war

Iran, China and Russia began a joint naval exercise in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman, in what is being seen as a response to recent US maneuvers in the region. The drill is expected to further provoke Washington.


  • The four-day exercise has been launched from the port city of Chabahar in southeastern Iran.
  • The Chabahar port, which is near Iran’s border with Pakistan, was built with Indian assistance and is operated by India.

Why is the Iran-China-Russia naval exercise significant?

  • Since 2019, the region has been a focal point of global tensions.
  • The Gulf of Oman, where the exercise is being held, is a critical waterway as it connects the Arabian Sea to the Strait of Hormuz, a 33-km wide passage which opens into the Persian Gulf.
  • It is located between energy producers Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman (the exclave of Musandam), and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
  • A fifth of the world’s oil passes through this waterway — around 30% of all sea-borne crude oil globally.

Why tensions have peaked?

  • In July, Iran detained a British oil vessel, the Stena Impero, for two months, believed to be in retaliation for an Iranian oil carrier that British authorities detained at Gibraltar earlier in the same month.
  • Tensions rapidly escalated in September, when the US accused Iran of carrying out drone attacks on oil fields in Saudi Arabia.
  • The attacks had immediately reduced Saudi Arabia’s oil production by half (5% of global oil production), until the affected facilities returned to full capacity by the end of the month.
  • Iran denied the allegations, and the responsibility was claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
  • US last year withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Tehran. The US has since pushed for Iranian energy sales to be cut off, crippling Iran’s economy.
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