03 June 2016
As China expands its maritime reach in the Indian Ocean, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands off the coast of India have gone high up on the priority list for New Delhi’s defence policy. The Modi government should develop a plan of action to tap the security and economic potential of the islands.
Located at the juncture of the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, a group of 572 islands (of which only 37 are inhabited)—the Andaman and Nicobar Island chain—straddles the busiest trade routes in the world, spanning 450 nautical miles and sits strategically at the entrance of the Malacca Straits. Although administered by India, these islands have greater proximity to Southeast Asia—Myanmar, Indonesia and Thailand—than to the Indian mainland.
This geographical distance from the mainland has long been a reason for New Delhi to neglect the islands, treating it only as a distant sentinel outpost. With increasing Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), New Delhi is finally waking up to the strategic geopolitical value of the islands. Not only does the proximity of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to the Malacca Strait place them in a strategic position with regard to surveillance of crucial Sea Lines of Communication, they could also form the cornerstone for India’s “Act East” policy and its maritime security strategy.
… Nazia Hussain is a Research Analyst with the Office of the Executive Deputy Chairman, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
RSIS / Online
Last updated on 06/06/2016