Bombings leave Yemen in crisis

The civil war in Yemen is escalating at a dangerous pace. A coalition of Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia has been bombing this country over the past week. The Saudis claim that the air strikes are targeting Houthi rebels. However, many of those killed and wounded – over a hundred have died in the aerial bombing so far – are said to be civilians. Also, the Saudi government has said that its military intervention is aimed at ensuring “security and stability” in Yemen. This is unlikely to happen. The bombing will exacerbate the conflict as it could inflame an already restive region. Civil war-ravaged Yemen is West Asia’s poorest country and the escalation of the conflict will have “disastrous consequences” for its people, 60 per cent of whom are in urgent need of aid. Use of brute force and aerial bombing cannot enhance security of the Yemenis or usher in stability to the region.

While the ostensible aim of the Saudi military intervention is to secure the regime of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi in Yemen, its real goal is to curb Iran’s growing influence in the Arab world. The Houthis are Shias and their influence is expanding rapidly in Yemen and since they are said to be backed by Shia Iran, the Saudis are keen to crush them. In charting its strategy in Yemen, the Arab coalition is taking a narrow, short-sighted view. Iran is not the cause of the unrest and instability in Yemen; the roots are domestic and lie in Hadi’s unpopular rule. The Shia Houthis are up in arms against his government for the discrimination they are subjected to but Sunnis and Shias alike want better governance. It is in this discontent that the roots of Yemen’s unrest and insurgencies lie. Eliminating the Houthi rebels will pave the way for armed Sunni terrorist organisations that are far more dangerous to assert themselves. The Islamic State and the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula have a strong presence in Yemen already.

With the conflict in Yemen poised to escalate, governments are evacuating their nationals. India has several thousand people working and living in Yemen. It must set in motion the process of evacuat-ing them immediately. This process is complicated by the fact that there are no airstrips that Indian planes can use in Yemen. Hence, the Indian government will have to plan its options quickly. There are a large number of people from other South Asian countries stranded in Yemen too and India must extend them a helping hand to them.

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