US Navy conducted Freedom of Navigation Operation in Indian Ocean Region

The US Navy recently conducted Freedom of Navigation Operation in the Indian Ocean Region near Lakshadweep. During the operation, the US warship entered the Exclusive Economic Zone of India without seeking prior consent from India. The warship that entered Indian EEZ was a Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones.

United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

According to the UNCLOS, countries cannot prevent ships from using Exclusive Economic Zone. However, according to Indian laws, any foreign military must inform before conducting any activity in the Exclusive Economic Zone of India.

US Stand on the issue

The US Government said that the US forces operate in the Indo-Pacific region on daily basis. All such operations are designated in accordance with international law. Also, the US Government stated that US Forces will continue such operations in the future.

Reasons behind US Freedom of Navigation Operation in IOR

The US Defence publishes an annual Freedom of Navigation Report. According to the report, excessive maritime claims by coastal countries restrict freedom of navigation and overflight. It also restricts lawful uses of the sea. These claims are made through regulations and laws that are inconsistent with the international UNCLOS. If left unchallenged these excessive maritime claims will infringe upon the freedom of the seas enjoyed by all countries. According to the report, India is among the twenty-one other nations where the US forces challenged the claims. The other countries are Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Russia, Maldives.

What is Freedom of Navigation?

The Freedom of Navigation is an international law according to which ships flying the flag of a sovereign state shall not suffer interference from other states unless otherwise provided in the international laws.

Article 87 of UNCLOS

Article 87 of the UNCLOS says that the high seas are open to all the states whether land locked or coastal. It mentions “Freedom of Navigation” as the right for all states.

Why is India concerned about the US Freedom of Navigation Operation in the Indian Ocean?

The Article 87 of UNCLOS remains a trade off between the developed and the developing countries. This is because, the developed world is interested in maximizing their freedom to sail and explore their seas. On the other hand, the developing countries want to protect their offshore resources and their independence. India being a developing nation is yet to explore its EEZ to the fullest. And thus, is interested in protecting its EEZ. This is one of the main reasons India is concerned about the US Freedom of Navigation Operation in the Indian Ocean Region.

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