External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Sunday said that he had contacted his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian seeking the release of the 17 Indian crew on board a cargo ship seized by Iran.

Amir-Abdollahian told Jaishankar that Tehran would soon allow representatives of the Indian government to meet the crew, Times Now reported citing a statement by the Iranian foreign ministry.

On Saturday, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized the cargo vessel MSC Aries near the Strait of Hormuz that connects the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. The Revolutionary Guards is part of the Iranian armed forces. The ship was taken into Iranian territorial waters. Of the total 25 crew on board the vessel, 17 are Indian.

The ship was seized by Iran for its alleged links with Israel amid rising tensions in West Asia. The vessel is linked to London-based Zodiac Maritime, which is part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group, The Indian Express reported.

Meanwhile, Indian Navy chief R Hari Kumar on Sunday said that MSC Aries was headed towards an Indian port when it was taken over by the Iranian forces, PTI reported.

Speaking to reporters in Goa, Kumar said that the vessel had “cleared the Strait of Hormuz” and “was coming south” when it was seized.

Earlier on Sunday, Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles towards Israel in its first-ever direct military attack on the country. Most of these drones and missiles were intercepted by Israel and its allies. The attack is believed to be a response to a suspected Israeli airstrike on an Iranian diplomatic compound in Syria earlier this month that killed 16 people, including seven Revolutionary Guards personnel.

Jaishankar said on Sunday that he had also discussed the situation in West Asia with Amir-Abdollahian. “Stressed the importance of avoiding escalation, exercising restraint and returning to diplomacy,” he said in a social media post.

Earlier during the day, India’s External Affairs Ministry had said that New Delhi was “seriously concerned at the escalation of hostilities between Israel and Iran, which threatens the peace and security in the region”. “We call for immediate de-escalation, exercise of restraint, stepping back from violence and return to the path of diplomacy,” the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said that it is closely monitoring the situation and that India’s diplomatic missions in the region were in touch with the Indian communities. It emphasised the importance of maintaining “security and stability” in West Asia.

Iran’s attack comes amid widening tensions in West Asia as Israel pushes ahead with its war on Gaza, which started more than six months ago. The Israeli military’s air and ground operations in the besieged Palestinian territory have killed over 33,000 people so far. The war began after Palestinian militant group Hamas led an incursion into southern Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people and taking over 200 hostages.