The United States has termed its unapproved exercise within India’s Exclusive Economic Zone, off the Lakshadweep Islands, an innocent move, PTI reported on Saturday. But America indicated that it did not carry out military movement in the zone, according to NDTV.

The USS John Paul Jones, a destroyer ship, had passed through the exclusive zone in the Arabian Sea without taking India’s permission on April 7. “I can tell you that the USS John Paul Jones asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the vicinity of the Republic of the Maldives by conducting innocent passage through its territorial sea in normal operations within its exclusive economic zone without requesting prior permission,” Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby said, according to PTI.

Kirby claimed that the United States’ Freedom of Navigation Operations were consistent with international law. “Again, we continue to maintain the right, indeed the responsibility, to fly, sail, and operate in accordance with international law,” he added, according to the news agency.

The official said that it was the US’ responsibility to uphold the freedom of navigation and the lawful uses of the sea recognised in international law.

Also read: India conveys its concern to US after warship conducts exercise near Lakshadweep without consent

An unidentified US embassy official also called the patrol a routine exercise, The Indian Express reported. “This operation demonstrates longstanding US support for international law and freedom of the seas worldwide,” he said. “We value our partnership with India on a wide range of issues, including regional security across the Indo-Pacific.”

India had on Friday conveyed its concerns about the exercise to the US. “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 released on April 7, the United States’ 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 maneuvers in area was “inconsistent with international law”.

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.