The US has announced that it conducted the Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP) in Indian waters in the Lakshadweep Islands, leaving the Indian security establishment in a surprise leading to an assessment to ascertain if an operational exercise was actually carried out or was it just an innocent passage.

The US Navy announced that it carried a Freedom of Navigation Operation inside India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) without prior consent.

Reacting to it, a senior government official stated that if it was an innocent passage it’s not an issue.

“We don’t object to normal transiting but if there has been an operational exercise without informing then it needs to be taken up,” the official said.

The US Navy statement said: “On April 7, 2021, the USS John Paul Jones asserted navigational rights and freedoms approximately 130 nautical miles west of the Lakshadweep Islands, inside India’s EEZ, without requesting India’s prior consent, consistent with international law.

“India requires prior consent for military exercises or manoeuvers in its exclusive economic zone or continental shelf, a claim inconsistent with international law.”

The statement further said the FONOP upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea recognised in international law by challenging India’s excessive maritime claims.

US forces operate in the Indo-Pacific region on a daily basis.

All operations are designed in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the US will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, the statement said.

“We conduct routine and regular FONOP), as we have done in the past and will continue to in the future. FONOPs are not about one country, nor are they about making political statements.”

Indian government officials said it’s unusual for such a statement to be released.

Any activity within 200 km nautical miles, which falls under EEZ or Indian waters needs prior permission as per Indian laws.

Chinese vessels on the pretext of carrying out research activities in Indian waters have been tracked and sent back in the past.