The 572-odd Andaman and Nicobar island chain is largely inhabited but it straddles the crucial Malacca Strait – the narrow water channel that acts as gateway connecting the Indian Ocean Region to the South China Sea.
Majority of the trade moving from west to east, including Chinese energy supplies, move through these narrow waters. China has already claimed large parts of the Spratly Island – an archipelago in the South China Sea.
The exercise is of great significance. Since 2013, Chinese warships are being increasingly visible in the Indian Ocean region. And, 2017 saw the highest ever deployment of People’s Liberation Army Navy in these waters.
At least one nuclear submarine and 13 warships prowled the area showcasing their power presence.
The contest between India and China to dominate the vast waters of the Indian Ocean is growing. Recently, the Indian Navy decided to permanently position its warships in the Malacca and Sunda Strait.
And, in a clear message to China, the United States of America, Japan, Australia and India have recently agreed to form a “Quadrilateral” to police the Indo-Pacific region.
To draw a parallel from the past, the exercise conducted by the Indian forces resemble the Normandy Beach landings of the Allied Forces in 1945 against the Nazi Germany to liberate France and Western Europe.
The first of its kind exercise called – ‘Defence of Andaman and Nicobar Islands Exercise’ or DANX – involved special forces of the Indian Army and marine commandos, the British made deep penetration strike bombers – Jaguars Bombers, amphibious ships or landing ship tanks, heavy transporters like the US made C-130J and missile frigates and corvettes.
The Agra-based elite 50-Parachute Brigade of the Indian Army was moved specially for this exercise.
“Imagine a situation where a portion of the island has been taken over. How will the Indian forces move to reclaim and liberate it? Such exercises test the ability of the forces to act jointly,” a senior defence ministry official said.
The Modi-led NDA government has been keen to exploit the strategic potential of the Andaman Island chain.
It wants to build jetties, airstrips to hold warships, surveillance aircraft there.