Strategic military infra upgrade in the works for Andaman & Nicobar Islands

News Excerpt: 

The Andaman and Nicobar (A & N) Islands are undergoing a significant upgrade in military infrastructure, including the modernization of airfields and jetties, enhancement of logistics and storage capacities, improvement in troop accommodations, and establishment of a strong surveillance system.

Key points regarding the infrastructure upgrade in the A & N Islands:

  • The enhanced infrastructure aims to facilitate the deployment of additional military forces, larger warships, aircraft, missile batteries, and troops.
  • The ongoing construction activities come amid growing Chinese attempts to expand its influence in the region, including the construction of a military facility at Myanmar's Coco Islands, which are located 55 km north of the A & N Islands.
  • There are plans to significantly enhance the surveillance infrastructure at one of the northern islands and construct a permanent habitat for troops there.
  • The length of an airstrip at a vital naval air station is being increased to enable the landing of larger aircraft like P8Is and fighter jets, and its jetty is also being expanded for use by larger ships.
  • A road from the north of the islands to Port Blair in the south is being improved to accommodate more traffic.
    • There are 836 Islands in A&N,  of which only 38 are inhabited.

Other major infrastructure upgrades:

  • The Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) is the first and only tri-service command in the islands and was established in 2001.
  • The Indian Air Force (IAF) is enhancing an airbase to accommodate fighter squadrons for extended periods by extending the runway to nearly 3,000 meters and establishing infrastructure for asset maintenance.
  • The Centre is also working on constructing a container trans-shipment terminal. 
    • This includes developing associated infrastructure to support traffic and operations.
  • The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and the Navy Chief have inaugurated various facilities to enhance the operational capability of the ANC that includes:
    • a modern hangar and dispersal system at INS Utkrosh in Port Blair, 
    • a Precision Approach Radar (PAR)
    • an Integrated Underwater Harbour Defence and Surveillance System,
    • Naval Communication Network (NCN) Centres
  • The Centre has requested the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) to increase manpower and enhance technical capacity to analyze satellite imagery. 
    • This initiative aims to improve surveillance of 55 inhabited islands in A & N Islands and Lakshadweep
    • NRSC, based in Hyderabad, is responsible for remote sensing satellite data acquisition, processing, and decision support for disaster management.
  • Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) held a Multi-Agency Maritime Security Group (MAMSG)-Policy meeting with officials of coastal security of A&N and Lakshadweep, Navy, and NRSC to discuss the surveillance of uninhabited islands.

Cocos Islands:

  • Cocos Islands, external territory of Australia in the eastern Indian Ocean. 
  • The islands lie 2,290 miles (3,685 km) west of Darwin, Northern Territory, on the northern Australian coast, and about 560 miles (900 km) southwest of Christmas Island (another external territory of Australia). 
  • The isolated territory is made up of two coral atolls, the southern comprising 26 islets and the northern containing only North Keeling Island. 
  • The territory’s administrative headquarters are on West Island in the southern atoll.

Why is it important for China and India’s prospects?

  • The maritime reconnaissance and electronic intelligence station on Great Coco Island in the Bay of Bengal, some 300 kms south of the Burmese mainland, is the most important Chinese electronic intelligence installation in Myanmar [Burma]. 
  • The Chinese Army is also building a base on Small Coco Island in the Alexandra Channel between the Indian Ocean and the Andaman Sea north of India's Andaman Islands. 
  • These two islands, which have been leased to China since 1994, are located at a crucial point in traffic routes between the Bay of Bengal and the Strait of Malacca. 
  • The Coco Islands are thus an ideal location for monitoring Indian naval and missile launch facilities in A & N Islands to the south and movements of the Indian Navy and other navies throughout the eastern Indian Ocean.

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