India-Yemen Relations & Yemen Crisis, Houthi Rebels Movement | UPSC Notes

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India-Yemen Relations upsc

India had worked hard to help Yemen get rid of the British. India was one of the first countries to recognise the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) in 1962 and the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) in 1967. Republic of Yemen was made when YAR and PDRY joined together in 1990. Yemen and its people like India and have stood up for her in foreign meetings.

India’s support for freedom and recognition of Yemen Arab Republic and People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen set the stage for a relationship in the post-colonial era that began to grow in the 1980s. Yemen is a part of a number of groups, such as the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA). Yemen has always been in favour of India becoming a permanent part of a bigger UN.

The cause and growth of the Yemen crisis and India’s role in it

cause and growth of the Yemen crisis

In 2011, the Arab Spring in Yemen caused former President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down, and an agreement backed by the GCC led to the creation of a two-year transitional government run by the new President Abdo-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Mr. Hadi had a hard time dealing with many problems, such as attacks by Al-Qaeda, a separatist movement in the south, and the fact that many military leaders still stayed loyal to Mr. Saleh. He also had to deal with corruption, unemployment, and lack of food.

The Houthi movement, which supports Yemen’s Zaidi Shia Muslim minority, fought a number of rebellions against Mr. Saleh over the past ten years. They took advantage of the new President’s weakness to take control of their northern heartland in Saada province and nearby areas.

The civil war started when the Houthis took over the government of Yemen in September 2014 after fighting with government troops in the capital city of Sana’a.

In January 2015, the Houthis strengthened their control over Sanaa by putting up walls around the presidential palace and other key spots. This made it so that Mr. Hadi and his cabinet ministers were essentially under house arrest. With the help of the UN, as agreed upon by the different political parties and groups, attempts have been made to form a new government, but this has not yet happened.

About a month after he quit, President Hadi left Sana’a for Aden, where he took back his retirement. This made the political situation even worse.

Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Arab states started an air operation to bring back Mr. Hadi’s government because they were worried about the rise of a group they thought was backed militarily by Iran, a Shia power in the area. The US, UK, and France helped with logistics and information for the coalition. Stalemate kept going on until a group of alliance forces started bombing Yemen from the air on March 26, 2015, in order to bring Hadi back as president. The operation keeps going.

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Houthis UPSC


The Houthis are a political and armed Islamist group that started in the northern Yemeni city of Sa’dah in the 1990s. The movement is called Houthis because its father is from the Houthi tribe.

The Houthis are Shia Zaidi, which is the religion of about a third of the people in Yemen. Officially called Ansarallah, which means “the followers of God,” the group started as a movement in the Zaidi stronghold of North Yemen in the early 1990s, teaching tolerance and peace.

The group started an uprising against the leader at the time, Ali Abdullah Saleh, in 2004. It ran until 2010. Their enemies see them as Shia Iran’s agents.The group is against the U.S., but they have also promised to get rid of Al-Qaeda. They took part in the Arab Spring-inspired revolution in Yemen in 2011 that got rid of Saleh and put Abdrahbu Mansour Hadi in power instead.

Saudi Arabia in Yemen upsc

Why is Saudi Arabia in Yemen?

Saudi Arabia’s Intervention:

Saudi Arabia got involved in Yemen after Shia Houthi rebels took over the capital city of Sana’a and the globally recognised government of President Hadi moved to the south of the country.

Saudi Arabia was worried about the Houthis because they thought they were working for Iran. In March 2015, at Hadi’s request, Saudi Arabia began a military operation against the Houthis in the hopes of beating them quickly. But the Houthis had dug in and were not going to leave, even though Saudi Arabia was bombing them from the air.

• The Saudi-led operation didn’t get anywhere because there were no good allies on the ground and no plan for getting out.

• In the past seven years, the Houthis have attacked Saudi towns from northern Yemen several times in response to Saudi air strikes.

Houthis response

The Houthis have not been pushed out of Sanaa and northwestern Yemen. They have been able to keep Taiz, the third largest city in Yemen, under siege and hit Saudi Arabia regularly with ballistic missiles and drones.

• In September 2019, the eastern oil fields of Abqaiq and Khurais in Saudi Arabia were hit from the air. This shut down almost half of the kingdom’s oil production, which is about 5% of the world’s oil production.


After six months of fighting, the Houthi rebels and the troops loyal to the President of Yemen that are backed by Saudi Arabia agreed at talks in Sweden to a ceasefire that was arranged by the UN.

• The Stockholm agreement said that they had to move their troops out of Hudaydah, set up a way to trade prisoners, and deal with the situation in Taiz.

• The UN thought that the agreement would pave the way for a political solution to end the civil war. However, in January 2020, fighting between the Houthis and coalition-led forces suddenly got worse, with missile strikes and air raids on several front lines.

• Saudi Arabia said it would stop fighting on its own in April 2020 because of a coronavirus pandemic, but the Houthis refused and asked for the air and sea blockades in Sanaa and Hudaydah to be lifted.

Stockholm Agreement

The sides to the war in Yemen have come to an agreement called the Stockholm Agreement. It was agreed to on December 13, 2018, in Sweden, and it has three key parts:

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1. The Hudaydah Agreement

2. A Prisoner Exchange Agreement

3. The Treaty of Taz

Under decision 2451 (2018), the Security Council gave its approval to the Stockholm Agreement.

Hodeidah Ceasefire Agreement

• The UN says that the sides agreed to stop fighting at midnight on December 17, 2018, in the city of Hodeidah and the three ports of Hodeidah, Ras Isa, and Saleef.

• Under the agreement, the Houthis will pull their troops out of the ports and the city of Hodeidah. This will be overseen by a UN-led committee with representatives from both sides.The Yemeni ports will be run by “local forces,” which will send the money made from the ports to the Central Bank of Yemen.

Effects of the Yemen Crisis on the People of Yemen

• As of October 29, 2017, at least 5,159 people had been killed, including more than 20% of children, and 8,761 others had been hurt, according to the UN.

• Most civilian deaths, including those of children, were caused by air strikes led by Saudi Arabia.

• The UN says that the destruction of civilian infrastructure and limits on the import of food, medicine, and fuel have led to a “catastrophic” humanitarian situation.

• Help is needed right away for more than 20 million people, including 11 million children.

• Because of the war, two million Yemenis have been forced to move within their own country, and 188,000 have fled to neighbouring countries.

On the World:

• Yemen is strategically important because it sits on the Bab al-Mandeb strait, a narrow waterway that connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden and through which most of the world’s oil shipments pass.

• Intelligence agencies consider AQAP (al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) to be the most dangerous branch of al-Qaeda because of its technical expertise and global reach, and the rise of IS affiliates in Yemen is another serious concern.

• The price and quantity of crude will be affected by the crisis in the Gulf.

People also see the fight between the Houthis and the government as part of a power battle in the region between Shia-led Iran and Sunni-led Saudi Arabia.

On India

• The Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf are part of India’s wider neighbourhood. Any trouble there would affect India in more ways than one, especially because it imports a lot of oil and has a big workforce there, which sends money back to India.

• The shipping ministry says that one of India’s most important shipping paths goes through the Gulf of Aden. This route is responsible for $50 billion in imports and $60 billion in exports every year. Since 2008, the Indian Navy has kept a presence in the Gulf of Aden to protect Indian ships and the Indian crews of ships flying the flags of other countries.

• Indians, including Hindus, Muslims, and Parsis, have lived in Aden since the mid-1880s. More than $80 billion comes into the area every year from the more than 8 million expats who live there. So, the situation in Yemen can affect the money that people send home and damage the shipping lines.

Critical Points of View

• No matter what happens next in Yemen’s civil war, sectarian tensions in the area and proxy fights between Saudi Arabia and Iran are likely to get worse in the years to come. But India hasn’t paid much attention to how politics are changing in the Middle East.

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• Delhi still looks at the area through the lens of the Arab-Israeli conflict, even though it is no longer the main war in the Middle East. India can’t protect its many interests in the Middle East, such as its energy needs and the safety of its foreign workers, without a much stronger political commitment from all of the competing groups there.

• If India doesn’t help the people in Yemen who are suffering and we just pat ourselves on the back for a few air evacuations from West Asia, we fail as a moral society and a democratic country.

This is a chance for India to strengthen its own diplomatic and strategic interests in the Gulf at a time when Pakistan is getting the ire of the entire Sunni Middle East.

Operation Raahat:

“Operation Raahat” was a relief operation started by India to get civilians out of war-torn Yemen. Before the rescue operation started, it was thought that there were about 4,000 Indians living in Yemen. Air India, the Indian Air Force (C17 Globemaster), and the Indian Navy vessels INS Mumbai and INS Tarkash all worked together to help get 5600 people, including 960 foreigners, to safety.

• In the past, India has helped Yemen with food and medical care, and thousands of Yemenis have gone to India for medical care over the past few years.

How important the operation is

India was able to get into Aden because it had been silent in the sectarian wars in the Middle East for a long time. This was because the West was in trouble in Yemen.

Without Indian military and aviation assets and respect on the ground among all combatants, neither airlifting nor naval operations would have been possible. The efforts were so successful that even though the U.S. and U.K. had naval forces in the area, they still asked India to help save their people.

Developments regarding the Yemeni Civil War

• US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in January 2021 that he planned to call the Houthi movement in Yemen a “foreign terrorist organisation.” Under the plan, the three leaders of the Houthis, known as Ansarallah, were to be listed as Specially Designated Global Terrorists. However, diplomats and aid groups worried that the move would make it harder to talk about peace and send aid to Yemen. The United States helped the Saudi-led campaign with intelligence and logistics. In March 2019, both houses of the US Congress decided to pass a resolution that says the US will no longer help Saudi Arabia fight its war.

It was vetoed by President Trump, and the Senate failed to override the veto in May. However, on January 27, 2021, newly elected President Joe Biden froze arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and on February 4, 2021, he formally ended American support for the Saudi coalition.