WASHINGTON: India and the United States are having a rare moment of disagreement in their burgeoning defence ties, with Washington accusing New Delhi of "excessive maritime claims" while asserting the right of navigation for its warships close to Lakshwadeep islands.

"I can tell you is that the USS John Paul Jones, a Navy destroyer, asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the vicinity of the Republic of the Maldives by conducting innocent passage through its territorial sea in normal operations within its exclusive economic zone without requesting prior permission," Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby on Friday, said after India conveyed its concern over the matter earlier this week. Kirby said the move was "consistent with international law."

Earlier, the US Navy said it conducted a freedom of navigation operation in Indian waters without prior consent to challenge India's "excessive maritime claims," triggering a sharp reaction from New Delhi.

"India's stated position on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is that the Convention does not authorise other states to carry out in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and on the continental shelf, military exercises or manoeuvres, in particular those involving the use of weapons or explosives, without the consent of the coastal state," India's ministry of external affairs said in a statement.

"The USS John Paul Jones was continuously monitored transiting from the Persian Gulf towards the Malacca Straits. We have conveyed our concerns regarding this passage through our EEZ to the government of the USA through diplomatic channels," the MEA statement added.

On its part, the US 7th fleet maintained that on April 7, 2021 (local time) USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) 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, consistent with international law.

The public spat is highly unusual given the close defence relations between the two countries, with the two navies sharing particularly tight ties -- even more than their army and air force wings. India has conducted more naval exercises with the US Navy than with any other country in recent years and the two countries have pledged close maritime security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.

The unexpected row comes only three weeks after US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin visited New Delhi -- in what was the first high-ranking visit from a Biden administration official -- and pledged close cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region ostensible to counter China's growing assertiveness.

“Secretary Austin commended India’s leadership role in the Indo-Pacific and growing engagement with like-minded partners across the region to promote shared goals. The two sides reaffirmed their commitment to promote a free and open regional order," Kirby had said following the visit.

Also, some old wounds have healed, New Delhi would be particularly tetchy about the breach of what it considers its maritime domain given the historical background: The Nixon administration tried to bully New Delhi with the US Seventh Fleet during the 1971 India-Pakistan war that resulted in the liberation of Bangladesh. The threat and the scar tissue from it are buried in the psyche of a whole generation of Indians.