The Andaman Sea is rapidly gaining its strategic salience and India has finally recognized its importance. And much to its dismay, there is a rising Chinese profile in the Andaman Sea and it is not limited to building strategic infrastructure like the China – Myanmar Economic Corridor. EurAsian Times analyses the significance of the Andaman Sea for India.
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The Andaman Sea is home to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Myanmar, Thai-Malay Peninsula and Sumatra Island. The large amount of shipping that enters the Andaman Sea from the east heads to Singapore, and to the Pacific Ocean.
According to secondary research by EurAsian Times and an editorial by a leading analyst of India’s foreign policy, “many of the geopolitical contestations involving the Portuguese, Dutch, French and the British took place in the waters of the Andaman Sea. The consolidation of British hegemony in the Indian Ocean at the dawn of the 19th century and its accommodation with France (in Indo-China) and the Netherlands (in the East Indies, now known as Indonesia) left the Andaman Sea in a tranquil state.”
He said during the Cold War, the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal became marginal to the power play between Washington and Moscow. “Now, the rise of China and Beijing’s projection of naval power way beyond its home waters is beginning to put the Andaman Sea back in play. China’s military profile is also rising.
“Beijing has sold submarines to Thailand and Bangladesh and its military cooperation with other littoral states of the Andaman Sea has grown steadily.”
India was not far behind. “India too has begun to accelerate the development of civilian and military infrastructure in the Andaman and Nicobar Island Chain.” It is also in political engagements with the Andaman littoral states.