India has decided to station fighter airplanes in the Andaman and Nicober Islands to strengthen India’s hold over the crucial Malacca, Sunda, and Lumbok Strait and the Straits of Ombai Wetar and the eastern Indian Ocean Region, top sources told India Today.
This is the first time fighter airplanes will be positioned in Andaman and Nicobar islands since World War II.
The Malacaa, Sunda and Lumbok straits are narrow ocean passes that connect the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea. About 70 per cent of world’s trade, by volume and energy passes through these narrow straits.
Over the last few years, more and more Chinese warships and submarines including nuclear submarines have been spotted in India’s backyard as the game to dominate the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) hots up.
Recently, the Indian Navy sent a tacit message to Beijing that it will keep an eye over the region by tweeting pictures of Chinese warships entering the Indian Ocean Region.
Leveraging the Andaman Island chain as line of defence against an aggressive China has been in the plans for some time now. The Modi government, however, has put more energy and focus to realise this.
The decision to beef up security at the Andaman and Nicobar island comes at a time when India and China are looking to cool down tempers along the 3,488 km long un-demarcated and disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC) after an informal summit between Prime Minister Modi and President Xi Jinping last month.
The India Navy has positioned about 19 capital warships in the area and has built two floating docks to repair and refurbish warships.
“Warships no longer need to be brought to the docks in mainland India for repairs,” said a senior Navy officer explaining the significance of setting repair and maintenance facilities in the island chain.
Top government sources, who didn’t want to be named, told India Today that air bases in Car Nicobar and on Campbell Bay has been identified as possible bases for the fighter planes.
“The Andamans must emerge as one of India’s top most outposts to project power,” the officer said. While the base at Car Nicobar needs upgrades, the airstrip at Campbell Bay is being extended to accommodate heavier aircraft. As of now the Russian made Mi17V5 helicopters are stationed in Car Nicobar airbase.
Administrative Changes ::
New Delhi is also likely to issue fresh orders allowing the Commander in Chief of Andaman and Nicobar Command (CINCAN) to exercise direct control of all assets and men including that of the Indian Air Force and the Indian Army soon, top sources told India Today and added that “the issue is being pursued vigorously by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.”
The fresh order is also likely to empower CINCAN to requisition assets that he deems fit to carry out the charter.
As a precursor to empowering the Commander-in-Chief of the Andaman and Nicobar, the government recently notified new “statutory rules and orders” that allows the Andaman and Nicobar Command to “exercise direct command” over personnel from the other two services.
As of now in tri-service organisations men, officers are governed by different acts and rules. The change was brought about especially for the Andaman and Nicobar Command. The ANC command was established in October 2001 but has largely failed to realise its potential because of turf wars among the three services, environmental concerns, fund-crunch and importantly political lethargy.
SOURCE : INDIA TODAY