HomeIndian ArmyIndian Military needs to Unlock the Potential of Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Indian Military needs to Unlock the Potential of Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Twenty-three years ago, on October 8, 2003, India established the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC). This tri-services command aimed to coordinate the efforts of the army, navy, and air force units based in the region and serve as a model for military reform in India, notorious for operating in silos. Recent military reforms, including the appointment of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and proposals for additional theatre commands, have breathed new life into India’s defense infrastructure.

Over the years, there have been modest improvements in air and naval forces on the islands, with the activation of four airfields, the establishment of drone bases, and a small presence of offensive naval power. However, the islands have yet to realize their full potential due to inadequate infrastructure that hinders the permanent basing of larger forces, including submarines, fighter jets, and long-range maritime patrol aircraft.

This underutilization of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is concerning because strategically located island territories have historically played a crucial role in the rise of great powers. China, for example, has developed Hainan Island as a base for its South Sea fleet and constructed man-made islands in the South China Sea equipped with fighter jets, bombers, radars, and missiles.

Maritime powers have also used the Andaman and Nicobar Islands as strategic springboards in the past. India’s neglect of these islands, which were treated as a penal colony during British colonial rule, may be due to their physical distance from the mainland. However, these islands bridge the Indian Ocean, the South China Sea, and the Bay of Bengal, making them vital to India’s great power aspirations.

A militarized Andaman and Nicobar island chain could safeguard India’s fleet of nuclear-powered ballistic submarines, which are crucial for maintaining a nuclear deterrent. As India commissions new submarines in the coming years, these islands could become the seaward anchor of an Indian nuclear submarine bastion, providing protection and enhancing India’s strategic capabilities.

In conclusion, neglecting the potential of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands could pose risks to India’s security and great power ambitions. These islands, with their unique geographical position, have the potential to play a pivotal role in India’s maritime strategy and nuclear deterrence.

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