US Navy conducts ‘Freedom of Navigation’ operation in India’s waters ‘without prior consent’

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In a extremely uncommon, though not unprecedented move, the US Navy performed a Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP) within the Indian Ocean area, and its warship entered India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) near Lakshadweep with out looking for prior consent from India. The US Navy mentioned that the operation was per worldwide regulation and challenged India’s “excessive maritime claims”.

In an announcement issued on April 7 by the seventh Fleet of the US Navy, which is the biggest ahead deployed naval fleets of the US, it mentioned that its Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer 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”.

“India requires prior consent for military exercises or maneuvers in its exclusive economic zone or continental shelf, a claim inconsistent with international law. 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 assertion mentioned that the US forces “operate in the Indo-Pacific region on a daily basis” and “all operations are designed in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows”.

However, the assertion additionally burdened that the US forces conduct “routine and regular Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs), as we have done in the past and will continue to in the future” and these operations are “not about one country, nor are they about making political statements”.

There was no fast assertion from India.

The operation comes at a time when navy cooperation between India and the US is rising, and the 2 navies have been concerned in a joint train, together with navies of Japan, France and Australia within the jap Indian Ocean area, within the La Pérouse train between April 5 and April 7 led by the French Navy.

Further, it occurred simply weeks after US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin visited India as a part of his first worldwide tour since US President Joe Biden’s administration took over in January and conveyed Biden administration’s “commitment towards strengthening the bilateral defence relations between the two countries”.

But it’s value noting that this isn’t the primary time that US Navy has performed such an operation in India’s Exclusive Economic Zone. The US Department of Defence publishes an annual Freedom of Navigation Report which is “an unclassified report identifying the excessive maritime claims that US forces operationally challenged”, the FON Report for 2020 acknowledged.

The report talked about that the US Freedom of Navigation Program was formally established in 1979 and “consists of complementary diplomatic and operational efforts to safeguard lawful commerce and the global mobility of U.S. forces”.

“‘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. 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. If left unchallenged, excessive maritime claims could permanently infringe upon the freedom of the seas enjoyed by all nations,” the report acknowledged.

India was not among the many international locations talked about within the 2020 report the place the US forces “challenged” the claims. India was final talked about within the 2019 report, together with 21 different nations that included China, Russia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives and Saudi Arabia. Before that, India was talked about within the 2017 and 2016 reviews as effectively.

According to the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), international locations can’t forestall ships, both industrial or navy, from utilizing the Exclusive Economic Zone. But Indian legal guidelines mandate that any international navy wants to tell earlier than conducting any exercise in India’s EEZ.

As per the maritime claims reference handbook of US Navy’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps, India’s Territorial Waters, Continental Shelf, Exclusive Economic Zone & Other Maritime Zones Act of 1976 requires international warships to supply discover earlier than coming into territorial sea. The reference handbook for India, until 2016, talked about that the US “does not recognize this claim” and protested it in 1976, 1983 and 1997. Further, it talked about that the US forces “conducted operational assertions” in Financial Years “1985 through 89, 1991 through 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2007, and 2011”.

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