In a move that could spark a diplomatic row, the U.S. Navy has announced that it has asserted navigation rights and freedoms within India’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) without seeking India’s prior consent.
This freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) upheld the rights, freedoms and lawful uses of the sea recognized in international law by challenging India’s excessive maritime claims, the 7th U.S. Navy said in a statement on April 7th.
He said the USS John Paul Jones, an Arleigh Burke-class missile destroyer, claimed the rights and freedoms to navigate about 130 nautical miles west of the Lakshadweep Islands.
The 7th Fleet is the largest fleet of US Navy deployed fleets. The U.S. had sent elements of the 7th Fleet to the Bay of Bengal to put pressure on India during the 1971 war with Pakistan that ended with the liberation of Bangladesh.
Each coastal country EEZ extends to 200 nautical miles (370 km) from its shores and the country in question has exclusive rights to all water resources, including oil, natural gas and fish. Any military activity in the EEC requires India’s permission, said naval officials familiar with the matter, asking not to be named.
Read also | The Pakistanis who steadily reduce equality with the US may have reached the end
If you need to do anything in our EEZ, you must notify us and get the permit, said Navy Chief Admiral Singh in 2019 after a Chinese ship that had intervened in Indian waters near the Andaman and Nicobar Islands was repelled.
When this report was presented there was no official reaction from the navy or the ministry of foreign affairs.
U.S. forces operate in the Indo-Pacific region every day. All operations are designed in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, navigate, and operate wherever international law permits, the 7th Fleet statement said.
We perform routine and regular FONOP, as we have done in the past and will continue to do in the future. FONOPs are not about a country, nor are they about political statements, he added. The U.S. Navy regularly conducts FONOP in the disputed South China Sea.
FoN operations by USN ships (as they may be ineffective) in the South China Sea are intended to convey a message to China that the alleged EEZ around the SCS artificial islands is an excessive maritime claim. But what is the message of the 7th Fleet to India? former Navy Chief Admiral Arun Prakash (retd) said in a tweet on Friday.
He said in another tweet, Here is the irony. While India ratified the UN Maritime Law in 1995, the US has failed to do so to date. For the 7th Fleet to carry out FoN missions in Indian EEZ in violation of our domestic law is quite bad. But by publishing it? Please enable IFF (Friend-or-Enemy Identification)!
The development comes at a time when the Indian and US navies have just completed multilateral exercises in the eastern Indian Ocean (IOR) region. France, India, USA, Japan and Australia conduct complex naval exercises at the eastern IOR to increase interaction between their fleets from 5 April to 7 April.
On April 7, the U.S. Navy said in another statement that the USS John Paul Jones asserted the rights and freedoms of navigation near the Maldives by conducting innocent crossings within its EEA without seeking prior permission. She said this was in line with international law.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) released its Annual Freedom of Navigation (FON) Report for 2020 on March 10, 2021. These reports identify the wide range of excessive maritime claims challenged by the U.S. government. This year U.S. forces challenged 28 different maritime redundancy claims made by 19 different researchers around the world, the State Department said in a statement on March 16th.
DoDs operational challenges, also known as FONOPs, are designed to challenge the coastal state’s maritime claims that illegally restrict the rights and freedoms of excessive navigation and flight and other internationally lawful uses of the sea in relation to these freedoms guaranteed in international law as reflected in the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, the statement added.
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