Concerns grow over armed Iranian ship
New Delhi: A mysterious Iranian ship, anchored for close to 30 days near Lakshadweep, has become a major cause of concerns for the government and coastal security agencies.
Reports, Tuesday, claimed that government has registered a strong protest with Tehran after the Navy confirmed that Iranian vessel MV Assa is armed with heavy machine guns.
The ship has been anchored there for over a month and so far Iran has given no explanation to Indian authorities in this regard. The Iranian Ambassador to India was summoned last week and explicitly told that the vessel MV Assa needs to be shifted from its current location as the country faces grave terrorist threats from the sea.
The authorities also told the Iranian Ambassador that a ship armed with machine guns cannot be allowed to halt in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for an indefinite period.
To counter India’s objections, Iran says that it cannot object to its ship, which is standing in its EEZ. It claimed that India’s territorial waters end at 12 nautical miles, beyond which lies the EEZ up to 200 nautical miles. A country has exclusive right to resources in its EEZ, but cannot interfere with commercial ships in this zone, Iran says.
The Iranian side also reportedly told the authorities that the vessel has been armed to thwart any attack from pirates. However, the government says that the EEZ is clear of pirates.
Another area of concern for the coastal security agencies is the unclear status of several boats, which regularly visit MV Assa, drop cargo and return. Iran has been maintain a stoic silence on the issue and it later claimed that the vessel was headed to Singapore.
Contrary to it, the crew claimed they were going to Colombo, then China. However, the ship has not moved an inch since then.
India cannot press for answers as rules of the sea allow complete freedom of navigation within a country’s EEZ.
MV Assa is believed to be owned by the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), and is an entity under US sanctions.