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India Looks Suspiciously At Growing American 'Appetites' in Arctic

© SovcomflotSovcomflot LNG ship Christophe de Margerie and Russian icebreaker 50 Let Pobedy traverse the Northern Sea Route in February 2021, the first commercial cargo vessel to do so
Sovcomflot LNG ship Christophe de Margerie and Russian icebreaker 50 Let Pobedy traverse the Northern Sea Route in February 2021, the first commercial cargo vessel to do so - Sputnik India, 1920, 29.03.2024
The US' claim to continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from its coast has been challenged by Russia at the International Seabed Authority (ISA) meeting in Jamaica. Moscow has also sent a demarche to the US on the matter.
The US unilateral claim to the continental shelf in international waters for the apparent purpose of carrying out deep-sea exploration activities has put it on a "weak wicket" globally, including in India, an Indian Navy veteran has told Sputnik India.

Commodore (retired) Seshadri Vasan, the Regional Director of National Maritime Foundation (NMF) and the Director General of Chennai Centre for China Studies (C3S), remarked that the US couldn't "have the cake and eat it too".

"The US intentions in not ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), even though it a signatory to the law, are suspect," said Vasan, adding that Washington wanted to lay claims over the continental shelf under the UNCLOS provisions.
"The US is seeking to exploit its contradictory stance on UNCLOS by laying claims to continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles. Technically, Russia is right in objecting to American claims, which are driven by its ambition to explore critical minerals in international waters," the Indian veteran underscored.
According to reports, any nation which has ratified the UNCLOS could carry out exploration of critical minerals in deep sea after getting approval from the ISA once the rules are notified. The ISA was formed to "ensure equitable sharing of financial and other economic benefits derived from activities" in areas lying beyond the continental shelf".
Reports suggest that US unilateral claims cover parts of Pacific, Atlantic oceans and Arctic Oceans.
Moscow has criticised the US for its selective approach to the application of international law, stating that Washington was focusing on its rights and completely ignoring its obligations.

India's Concerns Over US Double Standards on UNCLOS

Vasan recalled that US' contradictory stance on UNCLOS had put it at odds with India as well.

"As far as UNCLOS' interpretation by the US is concerned, India has witnessed the US Navy's actions on what it calls excessive claims by others," he said, referring to US Navy's so-called Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP) in India's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) near Lakshadweep in 2021 without New Delhi's prior consent.

At the time, the Ministry of External Affairs of India (MEA) raised concerns over the move, as it called for adherence to UNCLOS.
UNCLOS, which has been ratified by India, mandates that waters up to 12 nautical miles of a coastline are sovereign waters, while maritime area between 12 and 200 nautical miles from a coastline form part of a nation's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Vasan noted that launching jets from warships, carrying out drills, firing of explosives, and conducting surveillance activities are banned within India's EEZ, in line with domestic and international laws.
"While the US is right in saying that right of innocent passage of warships and other vessels can't be impeded in line with UNCLOS provisions, it's refusal to ratify the same law and then laying claims to continental shelves in international waters isn't appropriate," he explained.
Contrasting US stance with that of the India's, Vasan highlighted that New Delhi strictly adhered to UNCLOS after Bangladesh initiated arbitration proceedings against New Delhi in 2009 on overlapping claims in the Bay of Bengal. The tribunal had ruled in favour of Bangladesh.

US Claims to Increase Fuel Militarisation of Arctic Ocean

Vasan predicted that US claims could fuel tensions in resource-rich areas such as Arctic Ocean.
"America's unilateral decision to claim the continental shelf will obviously lead to an increase in geopolitical tensions, including through deployment of both ocean-based and space assets to monitor activities in potentially mineral and energy-rich areas such as Arctic Ocean," the Navy veteran said.
He said all the countries were increasingly looking to move towards international waters to carry out exploration activities of minerals and energy resources due to dwindling stocks on land.
He noted that India, for its part, has developed deep water manned submersibles in view of potential for underwater mineral exploration in coming years.
"All the major powers, be it the US, China, Russia or India, will be comptetors in the new space of underwater exploration in coming years. They will not only deploy their technological prowess to that end, but also seek to exploit loopholes in UNCLOS," concluded Vasan.
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