What is Freedom of Navigation? Know about the issue of US FONOP in India's EEZ
Why in News?
Recently, the US Navy conducted a Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP) in India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). US Navy conducted a patrol on Wednesday in India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the western Indian Ocean near Lakshadweep without taking permission from New Delhi.
What is the issue?
It didn't end at US Naval activities being carried out in India's EEZ but matters extended and complicated when the policies of India were called out wrongly by the US.
The US 7th Fleet released a statement to the press in which USS John Paul Jones “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.”
This statement made a comment that India’s policy of requiring prior notification was “inconsistent with international law.”
India’s Ministry of External Affairs issued a response saying, “We have conveyed our concerns regarding this passage through our EEZ to the Government of USA through diplomatic channels.”
The Donald Trump administration had a policy of “strategic predictability, operational unpredictability.
The US in recent years have increased the operations against Chinese transgressions in the South China Sea. Earlier, President Donald Trump’s administration had increased the number of FONOPs in the South China Sea to challenge China’s sovereignty claims. Jow Biden is carrying forward this it seems.
What is FONOP?
FONOP stands for Freedom of Navigation Operation
Freedom of navigation is a principle of customary international law that ‘ships flying the flag of any sovereign state would not suffer interference from other states, apart from the exceptions provided for in international law.’
Significance of the move:
The entire point of the exercise was to indicate to China that FONOPs are based on principles such as upholding the laws of the sea and not random muscle-flexing against strategic rivals.
It is ironic that it is India's Maritime Zones of India (MZI) Act, 1976, consists of provisions that are inconsistent with the UNCLOS treaty that was passed in 1982. This means that the US Navy, when it passed through India’s EEZ with no prior information, violated Indian laws that are not in conformity with the international law of the sea, even though India had ratified UNCLOS in 1995.
Provisions of UNCLOS:
UNCLOS allows for 12 nautical miles of the territorial sea, along with an additional 24 nautical miles as a contiguous zone. Here one is allowed to have some law and order, policing. Also, a 200 nautical mile EEZ is allowed to be exploited, with activities like fisheries or sea-bed mining but no territorial rights are given. Military ships are allowed to pass through even territorial waters on this innocent passage. However, India insists on notification not only for its territorial waters but even its EEZ.