Nearly a week after an action by the US Navy's 7th Fleet appeared to fray ties between New Delhi and Washington DC, the US Department of Defense appears to be in damage-control mode.
The US 7th Fleet had issued a statement on April 7, noting that one of its warships, the USS John Paul Jones, asserted "navigational rights and freedoms approximately 130 nautical miles west of the Lakshadweep Islands, inside India's exclusive economic zone, without requesting India's prior consent..."
The incident was reported two days later, forcing the ministry of external affairs to issue a statement that New Delhi had conveyed its concerns over the incident to Washington DC.
On Tuesday, a Department of Defense spokesperson described the passage by the John Paul Jones as "routine". "On April 7, the USS John Paul Jones, part of the US Navy Seventh Fleet, conducted a routine Freedom of Navigation Operation in the Indian Ocean. This operation demonstrates long-standing US support for international law and freedom of the seas worldwide," NDTV quoted the spokesperson as saying.
The spokesperson added "We value our partnership with India on a wide range of issues, including regional security across the Indo-Pacific."
Interestingly, last weekend, a Pentagon spokesperson appeared to be evasive when asked about the reaction from India over the passage of the John Paul Jones.
The Pentagon spokesperson had then referred to the John Paul Jones conducting a freedom of navigation passage in the vicinity of the Maldives. The 7th Fleet had issued a statement on April 7 stating the same warship had undertaken a similar exercise near the Maldives.