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Militarising Andaman’s: The costs and benefits

The Editorial covers GS paper 3[Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.]


  • The Ladakh stand-off with China has boosted India’s efforts to strengthen its military presence at the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. 

  • India has expedited plans for basing additional military forces, including facilities for additional warships, aircraft, missile batteries, and infantry soldiers at the strategically-located Andaman Islands.

Where are the islands?

  • The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are a group of 572 islands (37 inhabited) located at the juncture of the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea.

  • They span 450 nautical miles in a roughly north-south configuration adjacent to the western entrance to the Malacca Strait (a major Indian Ocean chokepoint).

  • The Islands connect South Asia with South-East Asia.

  • The northernmost point of the archipelago is only 22 nautical miles from Myanmar, the southernmost point (Indira Point), is a mere 90 nautical miles from Indonesia.

  • The islands dominate the Bay of Bengal, the Six Degree and the Ten Degree Channels that more than sixty thousand commercial vessels traverse each year.

  • ANI constitutes just 0.2 % of India’s landmass but provide 30% of its Exclusive Economic Zone.

What is its strategic importance?

  • One-Fourth of the total world population and one-third of littoral states of the world are located around the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

  • A large volume of the World’s trade, particularly oil and gas passes through this ocean.

  • The island chain acts as a physical barrier that secures busy Sea Lines of Communications by creating a series of chokepoints.

  • It includes the Preparis Channel in the north, Ten Degree Channel between ANI groups and Six Degree Channel to the south.

  • All the vessels that pass through Malacca Strait must traverse the Six Degree Channel.

  • The islands are located 1,500 kilometres from the mainland, they help to connect India to the Indo-Pacific.

  • They act as a buffer zone between India and the nations present in IOR.

  • India can defend its vital stakes in IOR and is a part of many maritime regional groupings due to the location of the islands.

How has it been militarized?


  • The idea of militarizing the Andaman Islands was advocated since the 1980s.

  • However, it was not an easy decision for Indian policymakers.

  • It was believed that turning the islands into a strategic-military garrison would infuriate countries in South and Southeast Asia and result in the militarisation of the littorals.

  • Malaysia and Indonesia feared that India would use its military facilities in the ANI to dominate its region, and project power east of Malacca.

  • Hence, the security presence at the strategic islands was kept minimum.

  • In the present times, amid growing threats from China, India is open to the idea of militarizing the islands.

What are the Highlights?


  • In 2016, India and Japan discussed a joint project to upgrade infrastructure in ANI.

  • This included a proposal to install a sound surveillance sensors (SOSUS) chain to improve India’s underwater domain awareness.

  • The plan was to integrate India’s undersea sensor chain with the existing US-Japan Fish Hook SOSUS network meant specifically to monitor People’s Liberation Army-Navy submarine activity in the South China Sea and Indian Ocean Rim.

  • Naval air stations INS Kohassa in Shibpur and INS Baaz in Campbell Bay are reportedly having their runways extended to support operations by large aircraft.

  • A 10-year infrastructure development roll-on plan pegged at Rs 5,000 crores is on the fast-track.

  • India can permit friendly foreign navies access to the ANI’s military bases.



Keeping in mind the strategic location of ANI and the growing ambitions of China, strengthening collaboration with Indo-Pacific partners must be a priority for Indian decision-makers. However, the downsides of offering foreign navies access to its island facilities must be taken into account. The final decision should be based on a weighing of costs and benefits and changing dynamics of the region. 


Source: Hindustan Times.