Indian Ocean Power Competition

Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Freedom of Navigation Operations

Mains level : Not Much

Indian Navy is scheduled to hold another Passage Exercise (PASSEX) with the US to undertake Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOP).

Try this question:

Q.What do you mean by Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs)? What are its legal backings?  Discuss its significance.

Freedom of Navigation Operations

  • FONOPs are closely linked to the concept of freedom of navigation, and in particular to the enforcement of relevant international law and customs regarding freedom of navigation.
  • Freedom of navigation has been thoroughly practised and refined, and ultimately codified and accepted as international law under UNCLOS, in a legal process that was inclusive and consent-based.
  • The drafting of UNCLOS was driven in part by states’ concerns that strong national maritime interests could lead to excessive maritime claims over coastal seas, which could threaten freedom of navigation.
  • FONOPs are outgrowths of this development of international law, based on sovereign equality and international interdependence.

Significance of FONOPs

  • FONOPs are a method of enforcing UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) and avoiding these negative outcomes by reinforcing freedom of navigation through practice.
  • It is exercised by sailing through all areas of the sea permitted under UNCLOS, and particularly those areas that states have attempted to close off to free navigation as defined under UNCLOS.

Back2Basics: UNCLOS

  • The Law of the Sea Treaty formally known as the Third United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was adopted in 1982 at Montego Bay, Jamaica. It entered into force in 1994.
  • The convention establishes a comprehensive set of rules governing the oceans and to replace previous U.N. Conventions on the Law of the Sea
  • The convention defines the distance of 12 nautical miles from the baseline as Territorial Sea limit and a distance of 200 nautical miles distance as Exclusive Economic Zone limit.

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