Saturday, February 27, 2021

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After Ladakh, Andamans Could Be Next Big Flashpoint Between India & China

India-China conflict in Ladakh is yet to cool down and there are reports that New Delhi is already preparing for a possible clash with China at the Andaman & Nicobar Islands in the Indian Ocean region.

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A per latest reports by Time of India, India is working to fasten plans for deploying additional defence personnel in Andaman & Nicobar Islands and boosting infrastructure to counter China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean Region while getting prepared for any possible clash.

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TOI quoting its defence sources claim that the long-pending plans for “force accretion” and “military infrastructure development” at the Andaman & Nicobar Islands have “gained a sense of urgency” with China’s assertive and expansionist actions along the India-China de-factor border in Ladakh.

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Indian naval base in Andaman and Nicobar Islands is strategically crucial for India’s defence and security. According to experts, the Indian base in Andamans along with the proposed bases in the region can counter and even choke China at three different points.

It’s not unusual that India maintains one of its newest and best-equipped military bases on the Andaman island. The archipelago is designed to be the main staging post for warships, aircraft, and submarines. This is part of the government’s Act East policy according to experts.

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And this has enabled greater naval presence in that islands that dominate the strategically important Malacca Strait. This strait is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and is also China’s gateway to the Indian Ocean.

According to defence experts at EurAsian Times, the Andaman and Nicobar islands are strategically located and acts as a deterrence to China. They said about 1,20,000 ships pass through the Indian Ocean every year and nearly 70,000 of them pass through the Malacca Strait.

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“The proximity of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to Malacca Strait makes them very important with regard to monitoring of the area and keeping the chokepoints under surveillance.”

Admiral Joshi (retired) as the Lieutenant Governor of Andaman and Nicobar had earlier stated that it is a clear sign that New Delhi wants to play a more decisive role in the region. Most importantly, India is also countering China’s belligerence in other areas of the Indian Ocean.

The ongoing border conflict between India and PLA troops is making New Delhi re-evaluate Andaman and Nicobar Island’s role as India’s critical military base that overlooks China’s vital sea lanes. These “choke points” of China can be quickly blocked, if required, by Indian warships and aircraft operating from the Andamans, writes experts.

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The Strait of Malacca is the lifeline of China, and if India along with regional allies especially the US can restraint the vital shipping lane, China will be left high and dry. China realises that and that is the reason why Beijing is investing billions of dollars in the CPEC project, to open land route via Pakistan which is now also under threat due to the border clashes.

According to experts talking to the EurAsian Times, just like Line of Actual Control where India can cut the Chinese-funded CPEC project, the India Navy is quite capable of choking China at the Strait of Malacca and Beijing would want to send a message to India.

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