The Ladakh stand-off with China has catalysed India’s efforts to strengthen its military presence at the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (ANI). New Delhi recently moved to expedite plans for basing additional military forces, including facilities for additional warships, aircraft, missile batteries and infantry soldiers at the strategically-located Andaman Islands. 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, even as a 10-year infrastructure development “roll-on” plan — pegged at Rs 5,000 crores — is on the fast-track. Indian strategic commentators are even urging New Delhi to permit friendly foreign navies access to the ANI’s military bases.
The idea of militarising the Andaman Islands isn’t new. Since the 1980s, Indian commentators have advocated building strategic muscle at the ANI. What has often seemed like a straightforward choice for Indian policymakers, however, has never been an easy decision to make.