New Delhi: To keep an eye on maritime security around the Malacca Straits and to gain strategic supremacy in the area, India will in about a fortnight from now open a new airbase, aptly named as Baaz (Hawk), in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, said defence sources.
The new naval base, which will get an upgraded air base too, will soon be operating heavier military planes from the Indian air fleet including the US-made special forces plane, C130Js, that was inducted last year.
INS Baaz will come up at Campbell Bay, India`s southeasternmost fringe in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands chain, which is actually closer to Indonesia than the Indian mainland.
It straddles a strategically key location in the Indian Ocean/Bay of Bengal overlooking the mouth of Malacca straits, from across Aceh in Indonesia.
This move by India comes even as the US spelt out its future strategy to focus on the Asia-Pacific in in "rebalancing" its military strategy earlier this year, while American Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said at the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore last month that the US will base at least 60 percent of its naval assets in the Asia-Pacific region.
Malacca Straits is a key maritime chokepoint that acts as a link between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, connecting East Asia, Australia and the US with Asia and Africa, which are the key oil resources of the world.
At least a quarter of the world`s trade passes through Malacca Straits and more importantly, at least 80 percent of China`s oil requirements pass through this choke point.
India already operates naval bases at Port Blair and Car Nicobar in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands chain.
It also has at least three air strips at Diglipur in north Andamans, Port Blair, and at Carnic in Nicobar Islands.
The new base will significantly increase India`s strategic reach in the region, considering that Campbell Bay is about 300 nautical miles from Carnic, till now a major forward operating base of the country`s navy in its southeastern fringes.
That`s the distance between Delhi to Bhopal and now India`s navy and air force will be able to launch its operations from that far away deep inside Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean.