Gautam Khaitan on US Fleet patrol in India’s EEZ

Recently, the US Navy announced that it entered India’s Exclusive Economic Zone near Lakshadweep Islands without the consent of Indian Government to assert navigational rights and freedom  Since the past decade, India and the US have been coming closer like never before. From trade to strategy, both nations have realized a need to deepen cooperation.

Since the past decade, India and the US have been coming closer like never before. From trade to strategy, both nations have realized a need to deepen cooperation on several issues. However, the US 7th naval fleet’s recent activity in India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) has raised concerns in New Delhi. , while commenting on the whole issue has called the action of the US fleet outrageous and an act of open defiance of the international laws. 

On 7th April, the US issued a press release asserting navigational rights by its 7th fleet’s Destroyer —the USS John Paul Jones, near Lakshadweep Islands in India’s EEZ. The US referred United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), 1982 to hold their claim legit. India protested the assertion of navigational rights by the US in its EEZ through diplomatic channels. 

“Whatever the US is claiming is rubbish and is flawed under the UNCLOS as it does not provide any navigational right to military vessels on the continental shelf. The incident occurred on 7th April, 2021of military manoeuver by the US without the prior approval of New Delhi must be protested in a strong voice. This may be a direct message to China, but India could not allow the US to defy international laws on its EEZ,” says Gautam Khaitan

Both India and the US have been active in establishing freedom of navigational operation (FONOP) rights under UNCLOS, forming a partnership that is a direct challenge to China’s aggressive and unlawful claim over the South China Sea. The US’s operation in India’s EEZ has seen a direct message to Chinese who have been present in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) since the past decade. 

Although, India has always shown rigid approach towards protecting its sovereignty on waters and placed reliance on principles of UNCLOS to safeguard its interest under its EEZ. India has a rich maritime heritage and EEZ of more than 2 million sq km. Pertinently, if any foreign warship enters India’s territorial sea, then that particular warship has to intimate India prior to its arrival. India extends its sovereignty on international waters to the 12 nautical miles from the baseline and requires prior permission for military exercises and manoeuvres in its EEZ, which extends it exclusive rights to economic resources for 200 nautical miles as per international maritime norms.

The US has tone downed since India registered its concern to Washington. Through a virtual meeting, the commander of the US Navy’s Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral Philip Davidson, said, “Our relationship with India remains one of Indo-Pacific Command’s highest priority,” calling the relationship important for IORs security and stability. 

Noting the growing cooperation and strengthening relationship of India and the US, Gautam Khaitan, says, “India-US relation is a dawn of new permutation and combination in the global politics. Issues such as the recent one is disheartening and this must be resolved as soon as possible. India and the US must work together in the direction of providing little more flexibility in the Indo-Pacific region to form better cooperation,” Gautam Khaitan adds. 

While responding to the claims that the US has been invading India’s EEZ since the 1971 Indo-Pak war, Gautam Khaitan said that it was a completely different time that was shadowed with the cold war era. “We must not refer to times that are multi-decade old and we must start looking towards the future where the enhanced relationship with the US is inevitable as it is our important economic and strategic partner. We must work towards enhancing our trust for establishing a long partnership and tackle Chinese dominance in the area.”



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