The Ministry of External Affairs said on Friday that it has conveyed its concerns to the United States through diplomatic channels after the Navy announced that it conducted Freedom of Navigation Operations within India’s Exclusive Economic Zone off the Lakshadweep Islands without taking New Delhi’s permission.
“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,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
The statement said the concerned ship was monitored continuously while transiting from the Persian Gulf towards the Malacca Straits.
In a statement released on April 7, the US Navy’s 7th Fleet said the USS John Paul Jones, a destroyer ship, “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”.
This is in dissonance with India’s maritime security policy, which states that any activity within 200 nautical miles, falling under the Exclusive Economic Zone or Indian waters, needs prior permission from the country.
However, the US Navy rejected the rule, and said that India’s requirement of prior consent for military exercises or manoeuvres in the area was “inconsistent with international law”. According to the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea, countries cannot stop ships, be it commercial or military, from using the Exclusive Economic Zone, reported The Indian Express.
The US Navy said its operation was an attempt to counter what Washington sees as India’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters. “This freedom of navigation operation upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea recognized in international law by challenging India’s excessive maritime claims,” the statement added.
Manoj Joshi, a former member of India’s National Security Advisory Board, said the US Navy’s actions could have “wider implications for the future” as “other navies could also begin to challenge India’s claims, whether they relate to prior consent for military activity”, the Exclusive Economic Zone or continental shelf.
This is not the first time the US has conducted such an operation in India, according to an annual Freedom of Navigation Report published by the country’s defence department. “Excessive maritime claims’ are attempts by coastal states to restrict unlawfully the rights and freedoms of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea,” the 2020 report said. “These claims are made through laws, regulations, or other pronouncements that are inconsistent with international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention.”