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The US violated India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in early April, thereby inviting New Delhi’s annoyance, by carrying out maritime manoeuvres in Indian coastal territory without permission. This was aimed at challenging India’s excessive maritime claims.

New Delhi raised concerns with Washington citing the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) of which India is a signatory but the US is not. UNCLOS, adopted in 1982, has 149 states as signatories. It is a comprehensive law manual governing the world’s seas and oceans and the usage of their resources.

India’s External Affairs Ministry stated, “The Government of India’s stated position is that the Convention does not authorise other States to carry out in the Exclusive Economic Zone 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 USS JOHN PAUL JONES was continuously monitored transiting from the Persian Gulf towards the Malacca Straits.”

This vessel carried out Freedom of Navigation Operations approximately 130 nautical miles west of the Lakshadweep Islands in south-west India. The EEZ of any country as per UNCLOS covers 200 nautical miles from the coast.

In its statement, the US said, “US forces operate in the Indo-Pacific region on a daily basis. 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 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 statements”.

Suman Sharma