India prepares to tackle Chinese threat in Andamans

Last Updated: Monday, February 8, 2010 - 21:05

Port Blair: In view of the Chinese presence
in Myanmar`s Coco Islands, just 40 km from the Andaman and
Nicobar, and its increasing military activity in the Indian
Ocean, India is planning to plug gaps in the islands` security
with possible induction of Sukhois, more warships and radars.

"There are gaps in surveillance, air defence and coastal
security. We are working towards plugging the gaps," a senior
officer in the tri-services Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC)
comprising Army, Navy and Air Force units said here on Monday.

"The Chinese have a presence in Coco Islands, which is
just 40 km of Landfall Islands in the northern most part of
Andaman. Earlier it used to be large, but now they have scaled
down the presence. But, yes, they are there," the officer said
on condition of anonymity.

The comments gain significance, as the Myanmarese, who
enjoy good relations with both India and China, had only a
couple of years ago taken a delegation of military personnel
from India to Coco Islands to allay the fears of New Delhi on
Chinese presence there and they had returned convinced
of Rangoon`s claims.

The delegation had even stated that China`s presence in
Coco Islands was a myth and even satellite surveillance had
established it.

The officer said, "In fact, the Chinese presence in the
region is all the more reason for gearing up the security
apparatus in Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the plans include
Sukhoi squadrons for air defence and radars for both aerial
and surface surveillance."

Though Sukhois have operated from Port Blair in the past,
the plans to have a fighter squadron of these potent air
dominance jets are still in the pipeline and depend on future
induction of the 240 of these aircraft already ordered by
India in recent years.

India currently has five Sukhoi squadrons based in Pune,
Bareilly and Tezpur.

The plans include having at least four air bases at
Shipur in the north Andamans and Campbell Bay in the Nicobar
Islands in the south, apart from Port Blair and Car Nicobar
for which the first two airfields are being upgraded to
support night operations and their airstrips are being
extended.

"Su-30 fighters have operated from here. But at present
only Port Blair can support these fighter operations. The
airstrips in Shipur and Campbell Bay are being extended from
the existing 3,200 feet to 12,000 feet and equipped with night
operations facility so that we can operate all types of
aircraft from these airstrips too," Andaman and Nicobar
Command Chief Vice Admiral D K Joshi said.

Not only Sukhois, the ANC is also looking at having other
fighters from the MiG series and Mirage-2000s in the Islands
if possible, other officers indicated.

On the Navy`s part, the ANC at present does not have
major surface combatants among the 15 warships that are
permanently based it. But it will be wise to have destroyers
or frigates in Port Blair due to the strategic importance of
Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which sits right on the entry and
exit of northern approaches to Malacca Straits, they said.

PTI



First Published: Monday, February 8, 2010 - 21:05

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