NEW DELHI/WASHINGTON: In an unusual move, the US Navy has announced that this week it conducted a freedom of navigation operation in Indian waters without prior consent to challenge India's "excessive maritime claims", triggering a reaction from New Delhi, which on Friday said it has conveyed concerns to Washington through diplomatic channels.
The Ministry of External Affairs also contested the US Navy's 7th Fleet statement of April 7 that the freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) by the guided missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones "upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses" of the sea recognised in international law by challenging India's "excessive maritime claims".
"India's stated position on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is that the Convention does not authorise other states to carry out in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) 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 MEA said.
"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 USA through diplomatic channels," the MEA said.
Announcing about the operation, the statement by the 7th Fleet said,"this freedom of navigation operation upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea recognised in international law by challenging India's excessive maritime claims."
"On April 7, 2021 (local time) USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) 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," the statement said.
India requires that other countries should take prior consent from it to conduct military exercises or manoeuvres in its EEZ or continental shelf, which the US Navy statement claimed was inconsistent with international law.
Asserting that the US forces operate in the Indo-Pacific region on a daily basis, the statement said "all operations are designed in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows."
"We conduct routine and regular FONOPs, as we have done in the past and will continue to in the future.
FONOPs are not about one country, nor are they about making political statements," it added.