The progress that had raised many enigmas, the US Navy ship USS John Paul Jones, that is part of the US Seventh Fleet, has violated the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of India and Maldives by its “freedom of navigation operation (“FONOP”).
EEZ is an area 200 nautical miles from the coastline of any nation, under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
As per the UNCLOS, countries have sovereign rights such as the right to use resources in that area.
A US Navy statement said the ship “asserted navigational rights and freedoms…inside India’s exclusive economic zone, without requesting India’s prior consent, consistent with international law.”
The statement clearly stated that the ship moved 130 nautical miles west of the Lakshadweep Islands and by its freedom of navigation operation, the US braced the “rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea recognised in international law by challenging India’s excessive maritime claims.”
Following Indian domestic laws, former approval for military exercises or maneuvres in the exclusive economic zone or continental shelf is required, and by current activity, the US has violated it.
When the US is not violative of international laws under UNCLOS, which doesn’t give full rights over EEZ, interestingly Washington is not a signatory to UNCLOS. It is in fact the only constant member of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) which is a non-party to it.
The progress comes even as US climate diplomat John Kerry was in India, with the release of US Navy being issued on 7th April.
Till now no reaction has come from India, with WION even reaching out to the Pentagon for a response. The most confusing fact is that US-India ties have been marked by much warmth, both being part of Quad and backers of Indo-Pacific vision.
Interestingly, days from now, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be participating in the climate virtual summit being hosted by US President Joe Biden.
A related announcement was issued for Maldives, with the US saying, “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 and normal operations within its exclusive economic zone without requesting prior permission”.
The US Navy statement declared, “This freedom of navigation operation (“FONOP”) upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea recognised in international law by challenging Maldives’ excessive maritime claims.”
The Maldives needs earlier approval for foreign warships to enter its territorial sea, and earlier approval for all foreign vessels to enter its exclusive economic zone.
The most interesting thing to know that the US Seventh Fleet based out of Japan was the same fleet whose carrier task force had entered the Bay of Bengal during the Liberation War of Bangladesh of 1971.
The purpose was to threaten India and support Pakistan but could not accomplish much as the USSR had expressed its 10th Operative Battle Group of its Pacific Fleet. ThUNCLOS
e fleet had to cancel its mission.