U.S. Navy’s USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) guided-missile destroyer

The U.S. Navy said it violated India’s maritime policy by conducting an exercise within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) without the latter’s consent.

The Navy carried out Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP) in Indian EEZ, challenging what it calls are “excessive maritime claims.”

“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 Navy’s 7th fleet said in a statement dated April 7.

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 (FONOP) upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea recognized in international law by challenging India’s excessive maritime claims, the statement read.

From 2007 onwards till 2017, the U.S. carried out multiple FONOPs every year. No FONOP was carried out in 2018 and 2020 and one FONOP in 2019.

“We conduct routine and regular Freedom of Navigation Operations (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 statement,” the service said.

The Indian government has not commented on the matter so far.

“There is irony here. While India ratified U.N. Law of the Seas in 1995, the U.S. has failed to do it so far. For the 7th Fleet to carry out FoN missions in Indian EEZ in violation of our domestic law is bad enough. But publicising it? USN please switch on IFF (Identification, friend or foe)!,” Admiral Arun Prakash, former Chief of Naval Staff in the Indian Navy, said on Twitter.

He added, “FoN ops by USN ships (ineffective as they may be) in South China Sea, are meant to convey a message to China that the putative EEZ around the artificial SCS islands is an ‘excessive maritime claim.’ But what is the 7th Fleet message for India?”

In another statement, the Navy said that the USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer conducted an “innocent passage” to assert navigational freedom in the territorial waters of the Maldives and its EEZ, without the prior consent of the Maldives government.

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