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What is the Strategic Importance of India's Newest Naval Base in Lakshadweep Islands?

India plans new airport for military and civil aircraft operations in Lakshadweep
India plans new airport for military and civil aircraft operations in Lakshadweep - Sputnik India, 1920, 06.03.2024
The Indian Navy on Wednesday commissioned its newly developed naval base INS Jatayu, located on the strategically important island of Minicoy in the chain of Lakshadweep Islands. Sputnik India examines how this would bolster the South Asian nation's maritime security.
With an aim to become the dominant maritime force in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), the Indian Navy is expanding its footprint in the country's archipelagos of Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep, and this week, the country's blue water force operationalized its newest base in Minicoy.
According to the Indian Navy, it will usher in a "new era of enhanced operational reach & capacity building in the South Western Arabian Sea".

"It is an important milestone in the navy's resolve to incrementally augment security infrastructure at the strategically important Lakshadweep Islands," Navy Commander Vivek Madhwal, the Navy's spokesperson, said in a statement.

The operationalization of the naval base in Minicoy comes amid tensions between India and the Maldives.
The Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu has officially asked India to pull out its defense personnel involved in operating Indian reconnaissance aircraft and radar stations there.
The island of Minicoy is approximately 125 kilometers away from Thuraakunu, which is the northernmost island under the control of the Maldivian administration.

Minicoy Base Enhances Indian Navy's Reach in the IOR

According to an Indian Navy veteran, who spoke to Sputnik India on the condition of anonymity, the Lakshadweep archipelago is very, very important for India because of its proximity to the Western Indian Ocean and the Maldivian archipelago.
"The geographical spread of this island (Minicoy), gives 20,000 square kilometers of territorial waters and 400 thousand square kilometers of Exclusive Economic Zone to India," the retired commodore emphasized.
He explained that India always had a naval presence in Lakshadweep. It had a naval detachment sitting at various locations in Lakshadweep - whether it was Androth, Kavaratti, or Minicoy, the Indian Navy always had personnel deployed there.
"What India didn't have was a structure to use to its advantage, which it would have in Minicoy now," noted the Indian Navy officer, who retired from the maritime force in 2023.

New Delhi Doesn't Want a Repeat of Coco Island in Its West

Moreover, with its relations with countries like Maldives not at their best, India would need to have a front where it can stop its adversaries. If one looks at the East, India has Andaman and Nicobar, which has a small island called Coco Island (part of Myanmar) - only 10-15 kilometers from Indian land. This island has a Chinese presence, including its radar stations, he pointed out.
"Do you want something like this to come up in India's West also?" the defense expert asked.
Therefore, to prevent all that from happening, the Minicoy naval base is vital for India.
"If we can have a runway where we can land our aircraft, fighter jets, helicopters, etc. just imagine how much buffer will it give to the Indian Navy in tackling somebody who's trying to come towards India as the forces will be able to stop the enemy 300 kilometers away from the Indian mainland," he concluded.
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Political Affairs
Maldives Inks Deal With China for Free Military Aid As India Gets Ready to Exit
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