With an eye on military expansion, India wants to develop the strategically located Andaman and Nicobar islands, according to The Indian Express . It has been learnt that this is a part of the central government’s Act East policy. The Central government has been working on expanding the military effectiveness of its outpost at the juncture of the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, including the creation of military infrastructure for greater naval presence in the islands that dominates the strategically important Malacca Strait. The government has also appointed retired Navy chief Admiral D K Joshi as the Lt Governor of the Union Territory.
Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman yesterday arrived at the Andaman and Nicobar tri-services Command on a two-day visit. This is her first visit to the strategically important command after assuming charge as the Defence Minister. Sitharaman was received at INS Utkrosh by Lt Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands Admiral (Retd.) D K Joshi and Commander-in-Chief of the Command Vice Admiral Bimal Verma. On arrival, she was accorded a joint services guard of honour, PTI reported. Later, she was given a comprehensive brief on the security environment and thrust areas of the Command at its headquarters, they said.
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The military focus is on countering the increasing Chinese presence in the region, which has been a cause of concern. Chinese submarines have been sighted in the area and have also been docked at bases in Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The southernmost island is only 150 km from Sumatra in Indonesia, according to Indian Express report.
The airstrip at INAS Baaz, the naval aviation base on Campbell Bay on the Great Nicobar island, is currently being extended from 3,050 feet to 10,000 feet The extension, which will allow the Navy to place its modern P-8I surveillance aircraft at INAS Baaz, is scheduled to be completed by 2021. The Navy currently operates its eight P-8I aircraft, procured from the US in 2013, from INS Rajali base at Arakonam in Tamil Nadu.
The Navy also plans to commission its second Floating Dry Dock Navy (FDDN) — constructed by L&T — near Port Blair by December, along with a dockyard under completion. This will allow more naval ships to be maintained and serviced in the islands.
The Navy is also in the process of constructing three forward operating bases (FOBs) in the islands — at Diglipur, Kamorta and at Campbell Bay — to allow its Khukri class corvettes to be distributed across various locations in the archipelago.