The Indo-Pacific region has emerged as one of the most important in the rapidly changing global developments.

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Dubai, Indonesia and Singapore are such countries of the world which have taken their entire country’s economy towards prosperity by becoming mere transshipment hubs. You will be happy to know that the area of ​​Great Nicobar Island is equal to the combined area of ​​Dubai and Singapore.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are a group of 836 islands spread over an area of ​​8249 km in the south of the Bay of Bengal. In all these there are only 38 islands where the combined population of 4 lakh 30 thousand people lives. It is directly controlled by the Central Government in the name of Andaman and Nicobar Administration. These two islands alone constitute 30% of India’s exclusive economic zone. The northernmost island of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is 22 nautical miles from Myanmar and Indira Point, the southernmost point, is 90 nautical miles from Indonesia. The island group is located at the western entrance to the Strait of Malacca, which means it is close to the world’s busiest, strategic and commercial waterway. The location of these islands has its dominance over the 10 degree channel and 6 degree channel which are considered very strategic. More than 60 thousand merchant ships transit through these channels daily.

The development of such a strategic location has been continuously neglected since the country’s independence and that is why India has suffered so much on the commercial and strategic front. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which are full of diversity, are home to some of the world’s rarest tribal groups and a large number of animal and plant species. After the independence of the country, no development was done here, maintaining the status quo of these islands. With the passage of time this very important island group fell victim to neglect.

In a changing world, the Indo-Pacific region has emerged as one of utmost importance amidst the rapidly changing global developments. It is worth noting that the most important region in the Indian Pacific is the Indian Ocean. After the end of the Cold War, the Indian Ocean is again emerging as an arena of strategic power for all countries. In such a situation, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands can prove to be a trump card for India to establish its dominance in this entire region.

Keeping all these above-mentioned points in mind, the Narendra Modi government at the center is formulating and implementing unprecedented policies in Andaman and Nicobar during its reign. In 2015, the Narendra Modi government declared the island group as India’s first maritime hub. Announced a budget of 1 lakh million. In 2018, the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited these islands and inaugurated several projects related to energy, communication and tourism.

Under the Island Coastal Regulation Zone Notification 2019 passed in 2019, the land acquisition project for port and shipping port has started here. In the same year, the central government also made a defense plan of Rs 5000 crore for Andaman. All these points verify that India is advancing its military and economic development at its southernmost point at a rapid pace.

Basic reasons for the rapid development of Nicobar

In 2022, a huge budget of 75000 crores was approved by the Narendra Modi government for the infrastructure projects of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Under this, 4 projects are to be developed on 16610 hectares of land in Great Nicobar Island. It plans to set up a green field international airport, an international container transshipment terminal, development of large townships and a power plant.

The Ministry of Environment has ensured a large budget under the Conservation and Management Plan to ensure the protection of the aquatic environment along with the tribals, fauna and flora there from such modern development. Along with this, three independent committees will also be established here, which will work for environmental control, biodiversity and protection of tribal society. It is clear from the preparation of the above project that soon India will establish a new power and sovereignty in the Indian Ocean. At the same time, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands will be established as the Great Wall of India with its full potential for India in the Indian Ocean against China.

According to NITI Aayog, Great Nicobar Island is the most valuable and important island of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It is adjacent to the East West International Shipping Corridor. This corridor connects the Indian Ocean to Europe via the Suez Canal. The importance of Great Nicobar can be easily understood because of this corridor. Great Nicobar Island is equidistant from Sri Lanka’s Colombo Port, Malaysia’s Klang Port and Singapore. Thus, the location of Great Nicobar will give tough competition to all the regional ports in future for the ships coming from Malacca.

The port to be built on this island will emerge as a very good alternative transshipment facility for Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia. After building a port in Great Nicobar, India will become a direct participant in international trade waterways and thus will be able to increase its dominance over the Indian Ocean trade activities. This port of Great Nicobar will emerge as a billion dollar market place for India.

Dubai, Indonesia and Singapore are such countries in the world which have taken their entire country’s economy towards prosperity by becoming mere transshipment hubs. You will be happy to know that the area of ​​Great Nicobar Island is equal to the combined area of ​​Dubai and Singapore. This explains how the Nicobar Islands will bring revolutionary changes in terms of commercial benefits and social importance for India. The location of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is only 200 kilometers from the Malacca Strait. It is a strategic area in the world’s commercial waterways, from where 90% of world trade by value and 70% by volume pass through this narrow channel. Every year 85 to 90% of the world’s crude mineral oil is traded through this route. China’s 78% oil supply and 70% trade with Europe, Gulf countries and Africa passes through this route. India’s most effective pressure on China at present, if it exists, is India’s presence near the Malacca Strait.

Due to this strategic presence of India, strategic experts from all over the world call it Malacca Dilemma for China. This is the reason why China has been working very enthusiastically in the last decade to eliminate this weakness and is working rapidly on the modernization of its navy. China has commissioned 80 warships in its army in the last 5 years. China has built permanent military bases in Indonesia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka under the String of Pearls policy. But from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, these three military bases will be in the range of the Indian missile. To deal with the String of Pearls policy, India has started work on two plans.

double fish hook strategy

The first one is – “Double Fish Hook Strategy” Its eastern hook starts from Andaman Nicobar and ends at Diego Garcia. In this eastern hook, India has signed a Logistics Exchange Agreement with Australia on its Coke Ireland and a Board Development Project and Logistics Support Agreement with Indonesia. In this way, India’s partnership with Indonesia and Australia, two big countries having influence in the eastern region of this Indian Ocean, is strong.

The Western Hook, on the other hand, starts at Duqm Port in Oman and ends at Diego Garcia. A Merry Time Transport Agreement has been signed with Oman by the Government of India. Mauritius, Madagascar Comoros, Seychelles and French Reunion are present on this stamp. India has significantly strengthened its relations with all of them in the last few years. Also, all these small second countries are also part of the Indian Ocean Commission. The important thing is that in 2020, India has joined this Indian Ocean Commission as an observer member. Also, India is entering into agreements with all major countries such as the US, France and Japan for interoperability in all these hooks. The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement signed with the US in 2019 is a vivid example of this.

metal chain strategy

To block China in the western Pacific, the US-backed chain of islands extends to the Kuril Islands, Japan, Ryukyu, Taiwan, the Philippines and Borneo. In the same sequence, by making Andaman and Nicobar a metal chain, India can stop (sea deny) China in the Indian Ocean region as well.

Sea Denial Strategy is an important strategy of the Navy, under which the way to reach our country and the sea is blocked by creating a sea barrier in the path of warships of another country. In the event of a war, taking advantage of Nicobar’s position, India can block Malak Street and cause trade loss to China. Also, by anchoring its nuclear submarine here, India can trace such a ship coming from the strait, which threatens India’s sovereignty.

India’s Necklace of Diamonds Strategy

India’s Necklace of Diamonds strategy proves effective against China’s String of Pearls strategy. Under this, direct access to Singapore’s Changi Naval Port, Indonesia’s Sabang Port, Seychelles’ Assumption Island, Iran’s Chabahar Port, Oman’s Dukam Port have been obtained. Along with this, India has laid a new foundation of friendly relations with all the neighbors of China, under which our relations with Mongolia, Japan, Vietnam etc. have been further strengthened. In this sequence also, Andaman and Nicobar has emerged as an important link, that is why three Air Force stations have been established here by the government. INS Utkrosh is present in Port Blair, INS Baaz in Great Nicobar and INS Kohasa in North Andaman. Experts believe that these islands should be developed by the Government of India as a natural waterway which can act as a permanent and very strong deterrence against China.

On March 31, 2022, the Government of India has also signed a grant agreement with the Japan International Cooperation Agency, by which Japan is providing an assistance of US $ 133 million for power supply to these islands. This itself proves that the development of Andaman and Nicobar is not only important for India but also for all other anti-China forces including Japan in the world’s geo-political situation.

– Shivesh Pratap

Technical Management Consultant, IIM Calcutta Alumni, Writer, Columnist

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