Strategic Importance of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in 2019-20

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indiashastra.com

The strategic importance of Andaman and Nicobar has grown. India needs to recognize the value of India’s southeast border.

Hey readers. In this post, I will tell you the strategic importance of the Andaman and Nicobar islands. This is topic surfaced in the Indian Express editorials in last year’s November. As it is important in India and Neighborhood relations under GS2, we will discuss it in detail.

These islands have gained importance recently because of their unique strategic location. So in this article, you will get insights on the uniqueness of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India.

Geographic Location

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Wikimedia

You can see the elongated chain of islands located in the Bay of Bengal extending from north to south.

  • These are 572 islands of Andaman and Nicobar.
  • These islands are bigger, numerous and scattered.
  • The northern-most tip of the archipelago is 22 nautical miles away from Myanmar.
  • Also, the southernmost point, called the Indira Point, is a mere 90 nautical miles from Indonesia.
  • Geology: Mostly, these islands are an elevated portion of submarine mountains.

These islands are of great strategic importance for India. Let us see what makes them so special.

Why So Special?

  • These islands influence the Bay of Bengal and the 6 Degree and 10 Degree channels. This channel traverse more than 60,000 commercial vessels each year.
  • Ecologically, this area is diverse. It poses a great variety of flora and fauna. Also, the Nicobar Islands are a part of the Sundaland global biodiversity hotspot.
  • Recently, India’s Navy Chief recognised the Andaman and Nicobar Islands as a “very very important aspect” of India’s security.
  • This region is ground for India’s naval exercises with south-east Asia ex. SIMBEX – (naval exercise of India and Singapore) and so on
  • The rise of China and its interest in the region has increased. The rising Chinese profile in this region especially military profile is a worry for India.

Why So Vulnerable?

Total of 572 islands come together and make up the Andaman and Nicobar group, but only 37 are inhabited. The absence of a human presence in the remaining islands has made them vulnerable to

  • narcotics smuggling, 
  • intrusion by foreign vessels, 
  • and other incursions.

Does India Recognise Strategic Importance of Andaman and Nicobar Islands?

India somewhat recognises the strategic importance of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Act East Policy of India, BIMSTEC, frequent visit to SE Asian nations especially Singapore shows India’s interest in the region.

India has never neglected the region but India is slow to act. How? Let us look at some scenarios to get a clear picture.

  • Radar Stations: Port Blair is only radar station in the region. Apparently, it is switched off every evening. When Malaysian authorities asked information about the missing MH370, India could not help as there was nothing to share.
  • Slow Development: Myanmar leased coco island to China. China developed it in a short period. Also, they built a radar station and an airstrip. In contrast, India took ten years only to decide whether to build a radar station on the nearby Narcondam Islands.
  • Internet connectivity is another issue even in highly important locations such as naval bases internet connection is unreliable. Again the reason is the slow pace of development and indifferent bureaucracy. Because of their under-productivity, an undersea cable link between India’s mainland and the islands remains incomplete.
  • Slow Infrastructure: Road building, airstrip construction has been slow.

India is accused of being slow in this region. To neutralise Chinese presence in the region India should act fast. Also, Andaman and Nicobar islands are an important component of India’s Act East Policy.

To conclude,

India can gain extra mileage using the Andaman and Nicobar region but it has to accelerate the civilian and military infrastructure development.

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Also Watch: International Atomic Energy Agency

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