India's attempts to strengthen its military presence in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (ANI) have been catalysed by the Ladakh stand-off with China.
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Government plans for creating additional military forces on the strategically placed Andaman Islands, including facilities for additional warships, aircraft, missile batteries and infantry soldiers.
- Runways at INS Kohassa Naval Air Stations in Shibpur and INS Baaz in Campbell Bay are being expanded to facilitate large aircraft operations.
Indian strategic observers also advocate allowing friendly foreign navies to have access to the military bases of the ANI.
NEED FOR ANI TO BE MILITARISED
- Increasing Chinese presence: China has increased its overall Indian Ocean Region (IOR) presence in recent years.
- For instance, the deployment of a submarine at the port of Colombo, the construction of naval bases at Gwadar and Djibouti, etc.
- Strategic location: These islands are helping India protect its crucial IOR stakes. India has set up the Andaman and Nicobar Tri Service Command to accomplish this objective.
- Economically important: These islands dominate the Bay of Bengal, which has important communication lines from the sea. About 30 percent of the seaborne trade in the world passes through this narrow area.
- They account for 30 per cent of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of India.
- Buffer Zone: These islands serve as a buffer zone between India and the other IOR nations.
CHALLENGES OF ANI MILITARIZATION
- Lack of approach clarity: on the issue of the strategic growth of the Andamans, the security of India and the
- The structures of foreign policy have not always been on the same page. This serves as an obstacle to the creation of island protection infrastructures.
- These strategic interactions on the A&N Islands can ruin China and lead to more antagonism between the two countries, given the complexity of bilateral ties between India and China.
- Many neighbourhood nations consider India a benign and benevolent force. The projection of energy on islands would alter this view of India.
- Lack of Infrastructure & Communication: An undersea cable connection between India's mainland and the islands remains incomplete after several years.
- Recently, the Andaman & Nicobar Islands have been linked by submarine optical fibre cable (OFC) linking Chennai and Port Blair. It will allow the Andaman & Nicobar Islands to deliver faster and more reliable mobile and landline telecommunications services.
- Islands are populated: Only 37 of the 572 islands that make up the group of Andaman and Nicobar are inhabited. The lack of human presence on hundreds of these islands has made them vulnerable to smuggling of drugs, international vessel interference, and other incursions.
- Geographic factors: heavy rainfall limits building work to six months a year and construction costs are compounded by the distance from the mainland as all material must be transported to the islands.
- Sensitive ecology: Environmentalists warn that recent infrastructure projects (such as hotels, resorts and a trans-shipment hub at Campbell Bay, as proposed by NITI Aayog) could devastate Andaman's fragile ecology. Many islands are already facing tremendous harm from the climate crisis.
India should adopt the 'strategic sovereignty' concept when making its decision to militarise ANI.
Strategic autonomy denotes a state's right to follow its national interests and to implement its desired foreign policy without other states being limited in any way.
Migration from the mainland must be facilitated and some of these strategically located uninhabited islands must be opened up to tourism. This will give India a stronger physical footprint and help the nation control the movement of ships.
India must ensure that the biodiversity of the place remains preserved throughout the construction of the islands.
COMMUNITY OF THE ANDAMAN & NICOBAR ISLANDS
- It is a group of 572 islands, only 38 of which are occupied.
- The islands range from latitudes of 6° to 14° north and longitudes of 92° to 94° east.
- Saddle Peak (732 m), situated on North Andaman Island, is the highest point.
- Barren Island, India's only active volcano, is located in A&N and last erupted in 2017.
- It also has mud volcanoes that have sporadically erupted mud volcano located on Baratang Island
- It has been also referred to as the 'unsinkable aircraft carrier' of India to the East.
THE PRESENCE OF INDIA IN THE INDIAN OCEAN:
Logistics-sharing agreements: with France, Singapore and South Korea, as well as with the US and Australia. A similar logistics-sharing arrangement with Japan is being negotiated in advance. Examples include: trade logistics at Sabang, Changi, Duqm, Agalega, Chabahar ports, etc.
- A&N Order: It is the Indian Armed Forces' first and only Tri-Service theatre command. It patrols the EEZ of India to combat gun running, smuggling of drugs, piracy and poaching, and conducts operations for maritime surveillance and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR).