From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : FONOP
Mains level : Freedom of navigation issues
The US Navy has had “asserted navigational rights and freedoms approximately 130 nautical miles west of Lakshadweep Islands, inside India’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), without requesting India’s prior consent, consistent with international law”.
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.
- It involves passage conducted by the US Navy through waters claimed by coastal nations as their exclusive territory.
- It is carried under the US policy of exercising and asserting its navigation and overflight rights and freedoms around the world”.
- It says these “assertions communicate that the US does not acquiesce to the excessive maritime claims of other nations, and thus prevents those claims from becoming accepted in international law”.
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.
What about EEZs?
- An exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is prescribed by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
- It is an area of the sea in which a sovereign state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.
- It stretches from the baseline out to 200 nautical miles from the coast of the state in question.
- It is also referred to as a maritime continental margin and, in colloquial usage, may include the continental shelf.
- The term does not include either the territorial sea or the continental shelf beyond the 200 nautical mile limit.
- The difference between the territorial sea and the exclusive economic zone is that the first confers full sovereignty over the waters, whereas the second is merely a “sovereign right” which refers to the coastal state’s rights below the surface of the sea.
- The surface waters, as can be seen on the map, are international waters.
Is FONOP violative of India’s EEZ?
- As per India’s Territorial Waters Act, 1976, the EEZ of India “is an area beyond and adjacent to the territorial waters, and the limit of such zone is two hundred nautical miles from the baseline”.
- India’s “limit of the territorial waters is the line every point of which is at a distance of twelve nautical miles from the nearest point of the appropriate baseline”.
- Under the 1976 law, “all foreign ships (other than warships including submarines and other underwater vehicles) shall enjoy the right of innocent passage through the territorial waters”.
- 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 replaces 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.