MILITARIZATION OF ANDAMAN & NICOBAR ISLAND
Amidst a bitter standoff in eastern Ladakh between India & China, strategic experts from the Indian side are deploying military capabilities in Andaman & Nicobar Island & has permitted military access to its allies including Japan, Australia, France and the US in the archipelago in order to push back the aggressive Chinese expansionist tendencies both from land & maritime domain.
- These islands dominate the Bay of Bengal, Six Degree & Ten Degree channels where more than 60,000 commercial vessels traverse each year.
- The Andaman and Nicobar Islands lie in the strategically important zone of India Ocean which implies that with India’s growing naval capabilities, this region could help India play a significant role in dominating the maritime security in Indian Ocean, most importantly the Malacca strait.
- Linking with the above mentioned point, India can potentially use this “Malacca Dilemma” (which has gripped China who fears that his adversaries would close the strait in the event of any conflict thereby denying access to much needed energy resources and trade to China who is majorly dependent on this strait) as a deterrent against China’s cartographic aggression.
- Further the Indian government has an excellent opportunity to make these islands an important element of “Act East Policy” thereby engaging with countries in the region east of India.
- Also the Andaman & Nicobar command is the first & only Tri-service theatre command of Indian Armed Forces which provides safeguard to India’s strategic interest in Southeast Asia & this in turn makes India a force to be reckoned with.
- Heavy militarization in the Andaman & Nicobar Island is bound to have severe impacts on its fragile ecology, this situation is further aggravated by climate change which can be highlighted from a report called “The Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate” which has cautioned that due to rise in sea level and increase in climatic events like cyclone, these islands will become uninhabitable in the near future.
- Only few groups of island of the Andaman & Nicobar Island chain are inhabitable, thus the absence of a human presence on remaining of these islands has made them vulnerable to narcotics smuggling, intrusion by foreign vessels & other incursions.
- Further heavy rainfall restricts building activity to six months a year on these islands & the distance from mainland adds to the cost of construction which makes infrastructural development a risky proposition here.
- This coupled with indifferent bureaucracy has led to pendency in projects especially the undersea cable link between India’s mainland & islands which still remains incomplete. Thus internet connectivity, even at the naval base in the capital Port Blair is poor & erratic.
- Also surveillance in the southern group of islands is a major challenge as the destruction of the road by the tsunami has left the two groups of islands linked only by air & sea.
- Further in comparison to China’s BRI & CPEC which is developing at a fast pace, India on the other hand has taken the slow road to improve infrastructural & defense capabilities in this strategically important location thereby hampering India’s ability to take active role in the maritime security of the Indian Ocean.
- A unified land, sea and air command must be provided with maximum funding in order to boost its capacity along with a clear cut decision making structure should be laid out.
- India must enhance its ability to speed up the pending infrastructural projects in order to boost development & growth in this region with special emphasis on environmental concerns.
- India in its bid to neutralize Chinese presence in this region must focus on improving its outreach to likeminded countries such US & Japan.
- The Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a Union territory of India at the juncture of the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea.
- The territory is slightly north of Aceh in Indonesia and separated from Thailand and Myanmar by the Andaman Sea.
- It comprises two island groups, the Andaman Islands (partly) and the Nicobar Islands, separated by the 150 km wide Ten Degree Channel (on the 10°N parallel), with the Andamans to the north of this latitude, and the Nicobars to the south.
- The Andaman Sea lies to the east and the Bay of Bengal to the west.
- The islands host the Andaman and Nicobar Command, the only tri-service geographical command of the Indian Armed Forces.
- The only volcano in India, Barren Island, is located in Andaman and Nicobar. It is an active volcano and had last erupted in 2017.
- In 2018, Prime Minister renamed three of these islands as a tribute to Subhas Chandra Bose.
-Ross Island was renamed as Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Island;
-Neil Island as Shaheed Island; and
-Havelock Island as Swaraj Island