As China continues to string its ‘String of Pearls’ around India in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), an alarmed New Delhi is reportedly increasing its naval presence in the island territories on both sides of the peninsula.
In April, India set up a naval detachment at Androth Island of Lakshadweep.
Inaugurating the facility, Vice-Admiral Girish Luthra, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command, said, “Lakshadweep and Minicoy Islands occupy a strategic location in the Arabian Sea. A number of shipping lanes pass close to these islands. Setting up of a Naval Detachment at Androth Island will enhance the Navy’s reach and surveillance, and contribute significantly to strengthen maritime security and stability.”
Now, according to the TOI, the government has approved land for another such naval detachment on Bitra Island in the same archipelago.
In fact, since 2014 India has been speedily upgrading and establishing a series of such bases in the country’s islands both to counter the coastal threat following the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks and secure the region to safeguard India’s maritime interests in the wake of China’s strategic manoeuvers in India’s backyard.
“Navy and Coast Guard units at Kavaratti, Minicoy, Agatti, Androth and other islands are also being progressively upgraded,” said a defence ministry official told TOI.
But planned forward-operating bases (FOBs) at Tuticorin (Tamil Nadu) and Paradip (Odisha) are yet to come up. The Paradip one had been proposed as early as in 2009 but administrative delays have hampered any progress on the same.
Once built the Paradip FOB will serve as an all-weather deep-water port for swift response in case of natural disasters that often hit the coast of Odisha.
Though 20 acres of land has been earmarked for the purpose and sanctioned by MoD, it is yet to be handed over to Indian Navy for construction of the FOB.
Similar is the case at Tuticorin where the process of land acquisition is in progress.
Smaller bases will also be set up in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
The Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) will be upgraded since it is the easternmost and southernmost military outpost and strategically best positioned to check China’s entry into the IOR. Off the eastern coast of Andaman lies the Malacca Strait, a very busy shipping lane touching the shores of Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.