- In one of the most surprising and unexpected moves, the United States Navy carried out a freedom of navigation operation with an acronym to boot, FONOP, in India’s exclusive economic zone near Lakshadweep deliberately without obtaining prior permission or intimation of New Delhi tantamount to an uncalled for and avoidable misadventure. Elaborating further, the US Seventh Fleet in a statement said that the USS John Paul Jones, a guided-missile destroyer, asserted navigational rights and freedoms around 130 nautical miles west of Lakshadweep on April 07th. No wonder, the Indian authorities have strongly objected to this unsupported move by citing the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
PC: ROBERT C.O’BRIEN
- Coming close on the heels of the like-minded nations joining hands to thwart the adventurous and ill-advised expansionist misadventures of Chinese evil designs, this unnecessary move by the USA raises questions about the intentions and timing. As the unfolding geopolitical and geostrategic dimensions envisage forging stronger bonds amongst the allies to checkmate China, as can be seen in the renewed Quadrilateral alliances involving India, Japan, Australia, and the US, the above infractions would only strengthen the resolve of Beijing’s ulterior motives to break the accepted global orders. Discomfiture and seemingly unpleasant occurrences amongst the renewed efforts at advancing the Quad, even if considered milder, would be music to the ears of the Chinese mandarins.
- Of course, the US has since somewhat toned down its posture by mentioning it had carried out an innocent passage in the vicinity of the Maldives and that its FONOPs are not targeted at any country in particular. The whole affair unraveling sticks out as an oddity far away from the reality of the present-day geopolitical scenario. Come to think of it, the US has not even ratified UNCLOS, unlike India. Undeniably, the US navy is known to carry out FONOPs in the South China Sea against China’s excessive maritime claims there. As is known, Beijing lays claims to almost all of SCS through its supposed nine-dash line cartographical innovation resoundingly rejected by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016.
PC: SHAKEEL ANWAR
- Undoubtedly, the US navy’s maneuvering acts as a caution to China’s unrestrained building of artificial islands, militarising them and harassing legitimate commercial activities of other nations on the SCS. Nonetheless, the US is bound to respect India’s domestic maritime laws and hence, incumbent on its part to handle the situation with more sensitivity and discretion. Keeping in mind the larger picture of the Quad and the future bilateral cooperation to counter China’s aggressive tactics should be the guiding light rather than allowing minor disputes to creep in to undermine the overall objectives of the Quad. The need of the hour for both the countries is to coordinate more closely to counter belligerent China and nothing else should impede the objective.