India on Tuesday registered a strong protest with Iran for having detained an Indian ship earlier this month, as foreign secretary Sujatha Singh summoned Iranian ambassador Gholamreza Ansari, India Times reported.
India was hoping until now that the ship would be released without having to make its displeasure public but the Iranians have not relented.
As first reported by TOI, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) took custody of the vessel on August 13 in international waters and took it to Bandar Abbas port.
India's patience is fast running out since the vessel has been in Iranian custody for 15 days without any justification or provocation.
The two countries have been on the verge of a diplomatic standoff since MT Desh Shanti, on its way to India carrying 140,000 tonnes of Iraqi crude, was detained in international waters.
According to the Indian establishment, Iran continues to detain the oil tanker without providing any evidence to prove that it discharged oily ballast into Iranian waters.
"Foreign secretary has conveyed government's strong concern at the continued detention of our ship in Port Bandar Abbas and government of India's expectation that the ship would be released at an early date and that crew members would be treated with all due consideration and courtesy in keeping with international norms," said foreign ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin in an official reaction.
He added that the two countries are still trying to resolve the issue amicably. The foreign ministry revealed that Singh had met Ansari over the issue also on August 16 - three days after the tanker was detained.
India has also conveyed to Iran that the manner in which the ship was boarded by IRGC in international waters and forced into Iranian waters was "unacceptable".
Indian officials maintain that United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) should have guaranteed safe passage for the ship. Iran has signed, but yet to ratify UNCLOS.
However, Iran has ratified the 1958 Geneva Convention on the Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone. Both the conventions are cited by Indian officials as preventing Iran from blocking passage of all vessels without any justification.
The ship is owned by the Shipping Corporation of India (SCI), which says it has already provided enough evidence to Iranian authorities to prove that its tanker was not responsible for leaving any oil stain in Iranian waters. It says the ship wasn't even carrying any oil when it is supposed to have discharged oily ballast on July 30.
Iran has refused to listen to both SCI and MEA and continues to insist that it needs to be compensated for the pollution.
Sources said that initially it asked for an anti pollution undertaking from the captain of the ship but later sought $ 1 million as compensation. The Iranian Embassy here also issued a statement saying that the issue was "purely technical" and not political.
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