In a big strategic push, India has virtually finalised an exclusive Rs. 5,650 crore military infrastructure development plan for the Andaman and Nicobar islands. The development plan for the strategically located archipelago will be spread over a period of 10 years. This will allow stationing of additional warships, aircraft, infantry soldiers, missile batteries and drones in the Andamans. It is being seen as a move to counter the rapidly increasing Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean region.
As per sources, the 10-year infrastructure “roll-on” plan for the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC), which is the only theatre command with assets and manpower of the three defence forces and the Coast Guard under one operational commander, has been formulated after prolonged discussions at the top level in the defence establishment. According to a source, “the plan has also been reviewed by the defence planning committee, which is chaired by national security advisor Ajit Doval, and includes the three service chiefs, among others.” Initially, the cost of the military infrastructure development plan was estimated at around Rs 10,000 crores but later on, it came to light land that was readily available or was under acquisition by the ANC would mainly be utilised for the plan.
At the same time, another detailed plan for “force accretion” of the armed forces in phases at the ANC by 2027 is also in the pipeline. The proposal plans for an increase in the manpower and assets in the Army at around Rs. 5,370 crores. This will include an upgrade of the existing 108 Mountain Brigade there and a new infantry battalion to add to the three already there.
According to sources, the recent visits of Prime Minister Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to the Andaman and Nicobar islands in the recent past indicate that the government was already working on some of the plans. Apart from the two existing major airports in the region, the runways at naval air stations at Shibpur (commissioned as INS Kohassa by Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lamba last Thursday) in the north and Campbell Bay in the South will be extended to 10,000 feet in order to facilitate operations by larger aircraft. India has already deployed fighter jets like Sukhoi-30 MKIs, long-range maritime patrol Poseidon-81 aircraft and Heron-II surveillance drones over the islands.
Therefore, under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi, India is well on track to fully utilise the strategic location of the Andaman and Nicobar islands. The expanding Chinese presence and build up in the Indian Ocean region was always seen as a cause of worry among the experts. However, India is no longer going to be a mere spectator. The country is now going to make use of the advantage that is on offer on account of the archipelago. And building up military infrastructure in the region is the first step towards strengthening India’s presence in the region. The fact that the Andaman and Nicobar Command is going to include assets and manpower of all the defence forces under one operational commander goes on to show how India is going to build up an efficient and lethal defence ecosystem in the region. With this move, India is all set to counter China’s rapidly expanding influence in the Indian Ocean region. India which is an emerging global power to reckon with has started acting like a regional power must in order to showcase its strength.