India has told the US that no country can transit through its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) without its prior consent in line with United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea after an American warship passed through Indian waters in what was described by the US Navy as a “freedom of navigation operation”
India has told the US that no country can transit through its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) without its prior consent in line with United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea after an American warship passed through Indian waters in what was described by the US Navy as a “freedom of navigation operation”.
According to media reports, this is the first time the US Navy has publicised the exercise though it has conducted similar operations in the past.
In a strongly-worded press release, the US Navy’s 7th Fleet said, "upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea recognised in international law by challenging India’s excessive maritime claims”.
"USS John Paul Jones asserted navigational rights and freedoms approximately 130 nautical miles west of the Lakshadweep Islands, inside India’s exclusive economic zone, without requesting India’s prior consent, consistent with international law,” stated the release.
India's Ministry of External Affairs in its response stated: "The Government of India’s stated position on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is that the Convention does not authorise other States to carry out in the Exclusive Economic Zone and on the continental shelf, military exercises or manoeuvres, in particular those involving the use of weapons or explosives, without the consent of the coastal state."
It added, "The USS John Paul Jones was continuously monitored transiting from the Persian Gulf towards the Malacca Straits. We have conveyed our concerns regarding this passage through our EEZ to the Government of U.S.A through diplomatic channels."
The press release issued by the US Navy’s 7th Fleet hasn't gone down well with the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of External Affairs at a time when India is working with the US to ensure free and open Indo-Pacific though forums like QUAD or Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, noted a Hindustan Times report.
The release asserted that India’s position on prior consent for military exercises or manoeuvres in its EEZ or continental shelf was “inconsistent with international law”, the report added
The release added that the US Navy conducts routine and regular FONOPs and will continue to do so in future, and that such operations “are not about one country, nor are they about making political statements”.
Former navy chief Admiral (retired) Arun Prakash tweeted: “FoN ops by USN ships (ineffective as they may be) in South China Sea, are meant to convey a message to China that the putative EEZ around the artificial SCS islands is an ‘excessive maritime claim.’ But what is the 7th Fleet message for India?”
He added in another tweet, “There is irony here. While India ratified UN Law of the Seas in 1995, the US has failed to do it so far. For the 7th Fleet to carry out FoN missions in Indian EEZ in violation of our domestic law is bad enough. But publicising it? USN please switch on IFF (Identification friend-or-foe)!”
In 2019, after a Chinese ship was pushed back after intruding into Indian waters near the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Indian Navy chief Admiral Karambir Singh had said, "If you have to do anything in our EEZ, you have to notify us and take permission."
The FONOP and the subsequent press release by the US Navy’s 7th Fleet has come at a time when the Indian and the US navies have just ended multilateral drills in the eastern Indian Ocean.
"Every coastal country’s EEZ extends to 200 nautical miles (370 km) from its shores and the country has exclusive rights to all resources in the water, including oil, natural gas and fish. Any military activity in the EEZ requires India’s permission,"the HT report quoted navy officials as saying, who asked not to be named