NEW DELHI: India is fast-tracking its long-pending plans to boost military infrastructure on its island territories and the coastal region on both the western and eastern seaboards, to ensure it can keep a hawk-eye on the rapidly-militarising Indian Ocean Region (IOR), as well as protect its huge maritime interests there, reports the Times of India.
The Narendra Modi government has now accorded approvals for setting up a naval detachment on Bitra island in Lakshadweep archipelago on its East, within days of commissioning one on the Androth island in April this year. A 2.18-acre land has been sanctioned for the new naval detachment at Bitra, it said, citing an unnamed defence ministry official.
“The aim is to first establish military presence in outlying islands through NavDets and then gradually build them up. Navy and Coast Guard units at Kavaratti, Minicoy, Agatti, Androth and other islands are also being progressively upgraded,” it quoted the official as saying.
This, it said, was part of the overall plan to boost maritime and coastal security, including setting up of forward-operating bases (FOBs) at Tuticorin (Tamil Nadu) and Paradip (Odisha), smaller operational turn-around (OTR) bases at Kamorta, Campbell Bay, Shibpur and Diglipur in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and naval detachments at Bitra and the Minicoy islands in Lakshadweep.
The report also mentioned plans to build force-levels and infrastructure in the strategically-located Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC), the country’s last military outpost. The plans were to counter China’s strategic moves in the Indian Ocean Region as well as to ensure security of sea lanes converging towards the Malacca Strait.
The nation is alreaedy implementing the coastal surveillance network that would have 36 radar stations along the 7,500-km coastline on the mainland, six in Lakshadweep and Minicoy, and four in Andaman and Nicobar. The radar chain project got its approval soon after the 26/11 terror strikes in Mumbai. Currently, the government is implementing the Phase-II of the network, which includes radar stations at another 38 sites and eight mobile systems.
But the progress has been excruciatingly slow in all such plans, the report said. The ANC – the country’s only theatre command with all Army, Navy, IAF and Coast Guard forces under one commander – continues to grapple with woefully inadequate manpower, assets and facilities due to general politico-bureaucratic apathy as well as turf wars among the forces.
The detailed project reports for the construction of OTR bases at Kamorta and Campbell Bay, for instance, are still to be prepared. Similarly, the 20 acres of land earmarked for the FOBs at Paradip and Tuticorin are yet to be handed over to the defence establishment. Consultations between the defence ministry and the shipping ministry are in progress to resolve the issues at Paradip and Tuticorin.