What is the Strategic?Importance of Andaman and Nicobar Islands? Defence of Andaman & Nicobar (Download PDF)

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Defence of Andaman and Nicobar Islands Exercise (DANX) was conducted under Andaman & Nicobar Command as a five-day exercise from 20 Nov 2017 to 24 Nov 2017. Main objective was to practice & validate procedures and drills of all the Command forces for defending Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

Image of Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Image of Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Image of Andaman and Nicobar Islands

  • In addition to main land support, fighters, special forces, naval ships and heavy lift transport aircraft participated in the exercise.

  • Joint planning and integrated approach was adopted for synergistic application of forces.

  • The highlights of the exercise were fighter ops, night para jumps at sea, slithering of troops from helicopters and amphibious landings of troops by ships.

Joint Special Forces Training Camp at Andaman and Nicobar Islands

  • The Joint Special Forces Training Camp under Integrated Defence Staff to further integration between the services in the field of special operations.

  • The final tactical exercise was dovetailed into DANX exercise of the three services, being conducted at the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

  • Highlight of the exercise was the airborne insertion of marine commandoes at sea with the Combat Expendable Platform drops with inflatable Gemini craft from C-130 aircraft at night.

The Strategic Importance of Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Positioning Andaman and Nicobar Isla

  • In the Bay of Bengal form India’s southeast border with the northernmost part of the archipelago only 22 nautical miles away from Myanmar.

  • However, the southernmost point- Indira Point, is a mere 90 nautical miles from Indonesia.

  • Islands dominate the Bay of Bengal and the Six-Degree and Ten-Degree channels, which more than 60, 000 commercial vessels traverse each year.

  • Nine major bottlenecks that control entry to this region include Malacca Strait and the Six Degree Channel.

  • The Andaman and Nicobar Islands thus lie in this strategically important zone giving India a significant role in controlling access.

  • Of the 572 islands that make up the Andaman and Nicobar group, only 37 are inhabited making them vulnerable to narcotics smuggling, intrusion by foreign vessels, and other incursions.

    Slow Progress of India Increases the Relative Importance

    • Although a unified land, sea, and air command was created more than a decade ago, the command still faces slow decision-making.

    • Other countries- notably China expanded their presence in the region with naval vessels camouflaged as fishing boats sighted in the region.

    • The only radar station at Port Blair is switched off every evening- when Malaysian authorities sought information about the missing MH370 from India there was none to share.

    • Efforts to strengthen India’s military presence have not kept pace with Chinese activity. Coco Islands, which Myanmar has leased to China now, has a radar station and an airstrip. In contrast while India took ten years to decide to build a radar station on the nearby Narcondam Islands.

    Steps to Be Taken

  • The home ministry needs to encourage migration from the mainland and open up some of these strategically located uninhabited islands to tourism giving India physical footprint.

  • The northern islands are separated from the southern group by the 80 nautical miles wide Ten Degree Channel wide- close watch needs to be kept over the movement of ships and military vessels that pass through these waters.

  • Recognize Andaman and Nicobar Islands as strategic assets to ensure a change in government policy.

  • Undersea cable link between India’s mainland and the islands needs to be completed to provide Internet connectivity.

  • Road building, airstrip construction, and building of jetties has to be done at fast pace.

  • Andaman and Nicobar Islands should be made important element of “Act East Policy” for engaging with countries east of India.

Problems with Infrastructure Development

  • Heavy rainfall restricts building activity to six months a year

  • Distance from mainland adds to the cost of construction- thus only few companies are willing to work on the islands because of the distance and cost.

  • For some materials, importing from Indonesia would be far cheaper.

  • Surveillance in the southern group of islands is a major challenge. Due to destruction of the road by the tsunami, the two groups of islands are linked only by air and sea.

- Published/Last Modified on: December 11, 2017

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