The US Navy's attempt to assert navigational rights approximately 130 nautical miles west of the Lakshadweep Islands, inside India's exclusive economic zone, without requesting Delhi's prior consent, has drawn sharp reactions from top strategists in India.
Brahma Chellaney, a strategic thinker, author, and commentator said that it is one thing for the US to conduct "freedom of navigation" operations in disputed waters, as in the South China Sea, but its another thing to do so in a partner nation's exclusive economic zone without its consent.
Nothing in UNCLOS (which U.S. hasn't even ratified) permits military activities in other nations' EEZs. It's one thing for U.S. to conduct "freedom of navigation" operations in disputed waters, as in SCS, it's another thing to do so in a partner nation's EEZ without its consent. pic.twitter.com/dpiNRUNJ4a— Brahma Chellaney (@Chellaney) April 9, 2021
The American destroyer entered India's exclusive economic zone on 7 April. It is mentioned in a statement issued by the US 7th Fleet that "freedom of navigation operations are not about one country".
"Either this is a major misunderstanding or a new US administration wants to send a very unpleasant message", Tenzing Lamsang, editor of The Bhutanese, said.
In light of this, former minister and BJP leader Subramanian Swamy sarcastically said: "Wow! Great achievement of Modi Govt: US is slamming our claim to our sea water area. See the American language. This means S-400 is coming to India".
Despite US warnings and sanctions threats to New Delhi on several occasions, the Narendra Modi government has decided to go ahead with a $5.43 billion S-400 air missile defence system deal with Russia. The first batch of the missiles is expected to arrive in India by the end of this year.
US Should 'Subscribe to Rules-Based Order That it Advocates'
Kanwal Sibal, a former Indian foreign secretary, said the US should abide by the rules-based order that it advocates.
The US has neither signed nor ratified the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and has only signed the agreement relating to the implementation of part XI of the convention.
"Indian law requires prior notification not permission. India interpreted the UNCLOS provisions in this light. US hasn't adhered to UNCLOS", Kanwal Sibal said.
Very valid comments by former navy chief. FONS against India and publicising them needless provocation. India not violating law. US should adhere to UNCLOS and subscribe to rules based order that it advocates. Can’t violate it itself without losing credibility. https://t.co/lQR2qHrn5P— Kanwal Sibal (@KanwalSibal) April 9, 2021
Former Indian Navy Chief Arun Prakash underlined that while India had ratified the UN Law of the Seas in 1995, the US has so far failed to do so.
"For the 7th Fleet to carry out Freedom of Navigation missions in Indian EEZ in violation of our domestic law is bad enough. But publicising it? USN please switch on IFF!", Admiral Arun Prakash stressed.
Former Naval officer Abhijit Singh said that freedom of navigation operations close to the more "strategic" Andaman Islands would have been far more controversial.
To the Q: "What is the USN trying to prove by this operation?" - the answer is that the FONOP a way of showing that "India's requirement of prior consent for mil exercises or maneuvers in its EEZ or continental shelf, is a claim inconsistent with int law"(1/5)— Abhijit Singh (@abhijit227) April 9, 2021
The top thinkers found the language used by US 7th Fleet for referring to a Quad partner as strange, as it says it conducted freedom of navigation operation by "challenging India's excessive maritime claims".
"Freedom of Navigation ops by USN ships (ineffective as they may be) in the South China Sea, are meant to convey a message to China that the putative EEZ around the artificial South China Sea islands is an 'excessive maritime claim'. But what is the 7th Fleet message for India?", Admiral Arun Prakash (retired), former chief of the Indian Navy, said.