Indian Navy ships berth at a pier in Manila. The Navy will now have control of the Andaman and Nicobar Command, established to keep an eye on Chinese activity and to serve as a base for future littoral warfare activity. (Agence France-Presse)
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NEW DELHI — To shore up its Andaman and Nicobar Command, India has given control of the command to the Navy alone rather than continuing the current practice of rotating control among the Air Force, Army and Navy.
The Indian Ministry of Defence decided that giving control to the Navy would help strengthen the command, a Navy official said.
The command was created to observe Chinese activity in the Indian Ocean and to function as a base for future littoral warfare.
The command is functioning at a low level and includes troops and officers from all three services, the Navy official said.
Russian-made Su-30MKI fighter aircraft have been placed in the command, and there are plans to increase the number of operational airfields on the island, as well as stationing an unspecified number of submarines.
The Andaman and Nicobar islands comprise 572 islands that lie less than 100 kilometers from the Indonesian coast. A joint command was established there in 2001 to boost India’s ability to rapidly deploy troops in the region.
While the command is intended to bolster defenses against China, analysts say, it also will prepare for littoral warfare due to its strategic location. The Andaman and Nicobar islands straddle the strategic seaway leading to the Malacca straits. These islands are near a number of littoral states in the Bay of Bengal and stretching to the Indian Ocean.
The ultimate role of the Andaman and Nicobar Command will be overseeing Indian interests in the Indian Ocean region, said Rahul Bhonsle, retired Indian Army brigadier and defense analyst.
“The role of this command would firstly be essential in providing a sort of springboard to strengthen India’s look-east policy. Secondly, to set an example for the viability of creation of future integrated commands. Thirdly, enable India to ensure and enhance the security of the region in the eastern part of the Indian Ocean region.”