The rampart of New Delhi in the Indian Ocean – The Diplomat

In 2015, the Indian government drew up a 100,000 million Indian Rupee plan funded by the Ministry of Navigation and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Administration to transform the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (ANI) into the country’s premier maritime hub. In 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the islands for the first time, inaugurating several development projects related to connectivity, energy and tourism, among others. More recently, it inaugurated the Chennai-Andaman and Nicobar Underwater Internet Cable, which is expected to provide high-speed Internet connection to seven remote islands on the ANI channel.

The islands have also seen the recent installation of 31 powerful GPS motion sensors and accelerometers, SMS alert broadcast systems, 13 automated weather stations, state emergency operations centers and the commissioning of ‘a solar power station in Attam Pahad. The Indian government, as part of NITI Aayog’s ‘Holistic Development Program’ for the Islands, has called on global players to invest in a broad social and infrastructure development program, including investments in resorts and resorts. ‘other tourist infrastructure.

These developments show how New Delhi is fortifying its southernmost border at sea and preparing for something bigger. As the Indo-Pacific region with its growing importance becomes a theater of opportunity for India, ANI has gained an important position in New Delhi’s foreign policy.

Strategic location

In January 2016, New Delhi released a Maritime Security Strategy Paper that emphasized the islands’ strategic importance and underlined their importance to India’s projection of power in the Western Pacific and beyond.

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The ANI Channel, located next to the western entrance to the Straits of Malacca, straddles one of the busiest shipping routes in the world. Containing about 30 percent of India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), ANI connects South Asia to South East Asia. The northernmost point of this archipelago is only 22 nautical miles from Myanmar and the southernmost point, Indira Point, is only 90 nautical miles from Indonesia.

In a 2017 analysis, Balaji Chandramohan pointed out that the Andaman and Nicobar Islands “dominate the Bay of Bengal, the six-degree and ten-degree channels that more than sixty thousand commercial vessels pass each year.” Chandramohan further noted that the islands act as “a physical barrier that secures busy sea lines of communication by creating a series of choke points: the Preparis Channel to the north, the Ten Degree Channel between the Andaman Island groups. and Nicobar and the Six Degree Canal to the south. While the first two sea lanes are seldom used by commercial shipping, all ships crossing the Strait of Malacca must pass through the Six Degree Channel.

China: the factor behind India’s ANI fortification

Writing for the Observer Research Foundation in September 2021, Sohini Bose and Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury argued that “China’s efforts to expand its footprint in the IOR to overcome its” Malacca dilemma “(fear of China of a maritime blockade in the Strait of Malacca “) and to achieve its ambitions of” Maritime Silk Road “have fueled apprehensions about the freedom of navigation in these waters. “

As part of China’s growing presence, the Economic Times reported in January 2020 that six Chinese research vessels had been spotted in the IOR in a single month and that nearly 600 Chinese fishing vessels were present here each. year from 2015 to 2019. In January 2021, a Chinese investigative vessel, the Xiang Yang Hong 03, was accused of “darkening” (operating without transmitting its position) in Indonesian waters. This ship was heading for the Indian Ocean.

In April this year, during the Raisina Dialogue, former Indian Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh said New Delhi had observed the regular presence of the Chinese Navy in the IOR over the past decade. China’s accelerated naval modernization, with more than 80 ships commissioned in the past five years, reflects its aspirations to embrace maritime hegemony in the Indo-Pacific region, including the IOR.

A retired Indian Navy Commodore official, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “The strategic importance of ANI is primarily due to China’s growing presence and involvement in the Indian Ocean region. He added, “China’s interest in the IOR is driven by its strategy of expanding its influence beyond the Pacific and South China Sea, which has sparked a demand for strategic bases in the region.

Given the growing Chinese presence in the Indo-Pacific, the officer listed two consequences one might expect in the region. First, by gaining ground on these critical choke points, China could use them to its advantage in a future conflict or stalemate with India. Second, a counterweight from the Indian Navy is to be expected, notably through the increased deployment of anti-submarine warfare planes in the ANI.

ANI and security collaborations

To counter China’s attempts to expand its footprint in this region, riparian countries, as well as world powers, are engaging in security collaboration near ANI to ensure free movement in surrounding waters. .

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The Japanese-American SOSUS (Sound Surveillance System, a chain of sensors designed to track submarines) will hit ANI, creating a counter-wall against Chinese submarines lurking in the Andaman Sea and the American Sea. Deep southern China. This will be a crucial collaboration, as Japan will share intelligence with the UK, Australia and India.

In addition, the development of a transhipment port at Great Nicobar, which will be located near the Strait of Malacca and the East-West sea route linking Europe and Africa to Asia, is underway. Considering its proximity, it could become a preferred choice for countries like Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia. As the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) comments, “This gives [Grand Nicobar] the potential to serve as an alternative transshipment facility in the region; a share of even five percent of the total maritime traffic in this region will be lucrative for India. “

To improve the connectivity and importance of the islands, New Delhi has entered into a number of international partnerships. The Thai government‘s plan to connect its port of Ranong to ANI could be an important development. In 2018, India and Indonesia, as part of their “Shared Vision for Indo-Indonesian Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific”, created a special working group to develop connectivity between the port of Sabang and ANI.

India could also use the developing ANI facilities for humanitarian aid and disaster relief. Radhika Ajayan, South Pacific Environmental Security Researcher, said: “From a climate security perspective, India’s use of smart energy through humanitarian assistance and disaster relief activities. disaster event (HADR) is enjoyed around the world, which China has failed to do in the past and suffered [for] (his late response during Typhoon Haiyan 2013). She further added that most countries in Southeast Asia are part of the “ring of fire”, which makes them more vulnerable to frequent natural disasters. A strong naval presence at ANI will make India a reliable partner in times of crisis.

India’s defense push at ANI

When Modi inaugurated the first submarine fiber optic project at ANI, he also hinted at a Rs100 billion investment plan for the islands. In northern Andaman, a Naval Air Station (NAS) Shibpur was commissioned as INS Kohassa, and in the Grand Nicobar in Campbell Bay, INS Baaz, a naval air station, was converted into a base. aviation. In his article, Chandramohan predicts that the ANI “could also be the base for elements of the Army’s special forces and naval commandos, the Marcos, an SU-30 MKI all-weather fighter squadron and a maritime squadron. Jaguar permanently. “India has already deployed long-range patrol planes, including the Poseidon-8I Neptune, to its forward military base in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The appointment of former Indian Navy Chief Admiral DK Joshi as Lieutenant Governor of the Islands in October 2017 was a crucial development, allowing for a better understanding of the potential and the security, economic and trade limits of the island development.

A “no-sea” naval warfare strategy – denying the adversary the use of nearby seas – is crucial in dictating conditions in the littoral space. ANI’s strategic location allows New Delhi to pursue this strategy in terms of maintaining its tactical stature at sea. With the growing importance of the Indo-Pacific, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands will continue to occupy the fore. the stage in India’s maritime strategy in the years and decades to come.

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