“Freedom of Navigation operation”(FONOP) and the “Exclusive Economic Zone”

What is the News?

The US Seventh Fleet has announced that one of its warships, USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) has carried out a Freedom of Navigation operation(FONOP). The FONOP operation carried out approximately 130 nautical miles west of Lakshadweep Islands. This is inside India’s exclusive economic zone. But the US never received India’s prior consent to conduct such an operation.

What is Freedom of Navigation Operations(FONOP)?
  • Freedom of Navigation Operations involves passages conducted by the US Navy. The US Navy will conduct such operations in the exclusive territorial waters of coastal nations.
  • Purpose: These operations denotes that the United States did not agree to the exclusive maritime claims of coastal nations. Thus preventing those claims from becoming accepted in international law.
  • According to the US Department of Defense(DoD), the FONOP Program has existed for 40 years. So far, the program continuously reaffirmed the US policy of exercising and asserting its navigation and freedom rights around the world.
India’s Response:
  • India has protested the U.S. decision to conduct a patrol in the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone(EEZ) in the western Indian Ocean.
  • Further, India also said that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) does not authorise other States to carry out military exercises in the EEZ.  Especially those exercises involving the use of weapons or explosives without the consent of the coastal state.

Note: India has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1995. However, the United States(US) is not a signatory.

What is the Exclusive Economic Zone(EEZ)?

UNCLOS

  • According to UNCLOS, Exclusive Economic Zone(EEZ) is an area of the sea in which a sovereign state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources. This includes energy production from water and wind. It stretches from the baseline to 200 nautical miles from the coast of the country.
India’s EEZ law:
  • India has legally defined the concept of EEZ in its “Territorial Waters, Continental Shelf, Exclusive Economic Zone and Other Maritime Zones Act, 1976”.
  • The Act also says that all foreign ships shall enjoy the right of innocent passage through the territorial waters. However, it is with the exception of warships including submarines and other underwater vehicles.
    • Territorial waters refer to 12 Nautical Miles from the baseline. In this area, the coastal country is free to set laws, regulate the use and also use their resources.
    • The innocent passage refers to the passing through the waters which are not harmful to the peace and security of India.

Source: Indian Express

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