New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: In what could affect relations between New Delhi and Washington DC, the United States (US) Navy on Friday said that it conducted "Freedom of Navigation Operations" near India's Lakshadweep Islands on April 7.

The operation, the US said, was conducted by its seventh fleet inside India's exclusive economic zone "without New Delhi's prior consent". It, however, said that the operation was conducted consistent with the international law.

"On April 7, 2021 (local time), the 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," said the US 7th Fleet Public Affairs in a statement.

"India requires prior consent for military exercises or maneuvers in its exclusive economic zone or continental shelf, a claim inconsistent with international law. This freedom of navigation operation (“FONOP”) upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea recognized in international law by challenging India’s excessive maritime claims," it added.

The Indian Navy or the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is yet to respond to the statements of the US Navy.

Meanwhile, Indian defence experts divided opinions over the US conducting operation near the Lakshadweep Islands with many saying that the central government can "give the US freedom of navigation patrol". However, several experts don't agree with that.

"There is irony here. While India ratified U.N. Law of the Seas in 1995, the U.S. has failed to do it so far. For the 7th Fleet to carry out FoN missions in Indian EEZ in violation of our domestic law is bad enough. But publicising it? USN please switch on IFF (Identification, friend or foe)!," said former Navy Chief Admiral Arun Prakash in a Tweet.

Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power, the coordination between the US and India has increased significantely with the former declaring the latter one of its most important allies in the south Pacific region. The alliance between the US and India is also critical to check the Chinese presence in the Indo-Pacific region.

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma