Seventh Fleet in India: The Beginning of America's Independent Policy in South Asia!


The US policy of looking at South Asia through Delhi is probably the end of it. A few days ago, India held a joint summit with the United States as a quad partner. 

The Pentagon has publicly stated that it would send the Seventh Fleet's warships without informing Delhi in the exclusive economic waters claimed by India. 

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs has expressed anger and concern over this. Security analysts have also expressed surprise.

This news and analysis are being published in the top media of India. According to the Indian Express, India has expressed concern to Washington over the conduct of a warship exercise near Laksha Island by the US Navy without the consent of Delhi. 

Delhi has said that Washington should abide by the Indian government's position not to conduct military exercises in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) without the consent of the foreign ministry. The US government has been informed through diplomatic channels.

A few days after Quad Group's first summit and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin's visit to New Delhi, the US Seventh Fleet announced that one of its warships, the USS John Paul Jones (DDG53), was conducting the Freedom Expedition.

 India considers this area west of the Laksha Islands as part of its EEZ. And under international law, New Delhi considers the entry of US warships into India's exclusive economic zone without requesting India's prior consent as extremely objectionable.

According to Indian media analysis, the incident has raised questions about the growing ties between the two countries armed forces, especially their navies.

 According to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, ‘USS John Paul Jones was being monitored regularly from the Persian Gulf to the Sea of ​​Malacca.

 India's stated position on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea is that the Convention does not allow other countries to conduct military exercises or anything like that using weapons or explosives without the consent of the exclusive economic zone and the coastal country concerned on the continental shelf.

On April 8, the US Seventh Fleet stated the Arabian Sea. "The USS John Paul Jones (DDG) has raised the issue of maritime rights and freedoms by entering India's exclusive economic zone, about 130 nautical miles west of India's Laksha Islands, without seeking India's prior permission," it said. 

What is being said is that prior consent is required to conduct military exercises or tactics on a region or continental shelf, which is not in line with international law. ”.

The Pentagon said in a statement that "US forces are conducting operations in the Indo-Pacific region regularly." These activities are designed and performed by international law. 

Wherever international law allows; The United States will go there, navigate and operate ships. We conduct operations on a routine basis and regularly, as we have done in the past. It will continue in the future. FNOP is not a matter of one country, it is not a matter of making political statements. '

Under Indian law - Territorial Waters, Continental Shelf, Exclusive Economic Zones and Others Maritime Zones Act, 1976, "all foreign ships (except warships, including submarines and other submarines) shall enjoy the right of way in the country's waters." 

"Unless it is detrimental to India's peace, order or security," the law states, "foreign warships, including submarines and other underwater vehicles, may enter inland waters after giving prior notice to the Central Government."

The US Navy's Freedom of Navigation operations near Laksha Island are not unprecedented. However, there have been objections to the public announcement of such warships.

 This comes at a time when military cooperation between India and the United States is on the rise. Their navies participated in a joint exercise in La Pero's exercise between April 5 and April 6 with the navies of Japan, France and Australia and the eastern Indian Ocean region.

 It was led by the French Navy. Last month, US Secretary of Defense Austin promised New Delhi that the Biden administration would "strengthen bilateral defence ties between the two countries."

India and the United States, Australia and Japan have formed a quad group. At the first summit on March 13, the quad leaders pledged to "share a vision for an open Indo-Pacific region" and to be "bound by inclusive, healthy, democratic values ​​and free from coercion." For the first time since 2006, Quad members took part in the Malabar Multilateral Exercise.

After the statement of the Seventh Fleet, everything seemed to go awry. Reacting to this, former Chief of the Indian Navy Admiral Arun Prakash said in a Twitter post: "There is a difficult reality here.

 The United States has so far failed to do so since the adoption of the United Nations Law on the Indian Ocean in 1995. 

It is bad enough for FON to conduct a warship mission in the Indian EEZ in violation of our internal law. Then they are promoting it again? 

The American Navy please launch IFF! ”Admiral Arun Prakash also questioned the motive behind the move. He said the launch of USN ships in the South China Sea meant sending a message to China that the EEZ in the vicinity of the artificial SCS islands was an "extra-maritime claim". But what is the message of sending 7th Fleet warships to India?

According to a 2019 article by Manoj Joshi in The Wire, the United States regularly conducts intelligence and survey missions in India's EEZ. Earlier, there were protests from New Delhi.

 Although in this time of danger, the government and the navy wanted to remain silent about the U.S. operation in the EEZ. Just the way they show their sense of ‘victory’ with China.

 The unusual aspect of the current development is that this is the first time that the US Navy has publicly stated that a military ship has entered India's EEZ.

The US Navy did not conduct any FON operations in India's EEZ from October 2019 to September 2020, according to the latest report released last month, citing the annual report of the US Department of Defense worldwide. 

However, the 2019 annual report states that a FON operation was conducted in India. In doing so, the US military challenged Delhi's "excessive maritime demands" by conducting military exercises using weapons and explosives without the necessary consent to enter India's "exclusive economic zone".

Except for 2018, all reports from 2018 to 2021 show that the US military infiltrated India's EEZ more than once in a year without prior consent. These operations related to India were not publicized at the time of their annual registration.

The press release claimed that "India's prior consent requirement is not in line with the Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOP) Act" - which is dangerous for India's maritime claim. The American press release even states, "We've done this before. I will go ahead. FONOP is not for a country and it is not a matter of making political statements. '

The press release, which states that India does not need prior permission, could be a major challenge to India's straight baselines surrounding Laksha Island. 

India published this baseline in 2009 through a gazette notification, in which straight baselines around Laksha Island declared a new area of ​​the sea as part of the country's waters. 

It includes the strategic nine-degree channel through the Laksha Islands and part of the international shipping lane connecting the Gulf of Aden to Southeast Asia in Indian waters.

Under maritime law, not only continental countries like India but also island nations like Indonesia can use a simple baseline to encircle the islands. The United States does not recognize the validity of India's 2009 gazette notification.

 However, Laksha has never particularly protested against the creation of a straight baseline around the island. However, the annual report of 2020 found that the United States directly challenged the baseline claim by releasing navigation patrols in South Korea, Japan, Haiti, Nicaragua and the South China Sea.

Interestingly, the US has always considered India as the basis of its Indo-Pacific policy. Both countries are partners in the Quad Alliance. 

In most of the bilateral documents, India and the United States regularly shared views in the Indo-Pacific region on "support for naval safety and freedom, over-flight and other legal use of the sea.

" This was indicative of Chinese expansionist activities in the generally disputed South China Sea. Now India's claimed territorial waters have also been included.

For more than a decade, American relations in South Asia, except Pakistan and Afghanistan, were thought to be influenced by India's interests and attitudes. Until Donald Trump's administration, it was seen as strong.

 The announcement and announcement of the Seventh Fleet's warship in India's claimed territory seem to indicate that the United States is pursuing an independent foreign strategy in the region.

 Compromise with India among countries other than Af-Pak means that the attitude that was in favour of America will probably no longer work. Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka or the Maldives are also proving to be true.

India's policymakers have probably speculated and are moving towards a more balanced relationship with China. So far, Delhi has seemed indifferent to the BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organization relations with China and Russia. 

India is now hosting the BRICS summit. Putting aside the tense situation on the border, it welcomes huge Chinese investment. It has also begun to move away from its negative stance on trade with China. Delhi is even taking steps to defuse tensions with Pakistan.

The arrival of the Seventh Fleet on Laksha Island seems to indicate a major polarization and policy rearrangement. The impact could be felt in Bangladesh and Myanmar, two neighbouring countries.

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