NEW DELHI: Amidst tensions with China along the LAC, India on Monday joined a passing exercise with a US Navy Carrier Battle Group (CBG) led by USS Nimitz that’s transiting through the six degree channel in the Indian Ocean. Four Indian naval ships sailed with the US CBG that’s headed for the western Indian Ocean after its deployment in the South China Sea. The announcement by India is a major signal to China. This comes nearly three weeks after the Indian and Japanese navies conducted a similar exercise. Last week, India’s eastern naval fleet completed an exercise in the Andaman Sea. All of this, a way of announcing India’s maritime readiness to China that has been trying to expand its footprint in the Indian Ocean Region. And adding muscle to India’s presence in the region are the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The government has major plans to upgrade infrastructure in the island chain that sits astride vital shipping lanes. It’s also home to India’s only unified command—Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC)—that was set up in 2001. Infrastructure development there is a major problem, former Commander-in-Chief of ANC Air Marshal PK Roy (Retd) told StratNews Global Editor-in-Chief Nitin A. Gokhale. Bulk of the land is forested, which needs several environmental and coastal regulatory clearances, construction material has to be brought from outside, there’s lack of contractors and big jetties that can transport building materials to the sites, to name of few. There’s another major issue that has to be dealt with on priority—the runway in Car Nicobar has to be raised and resurfaced as the island sank 2-3 metres under the impact of the 2004 tsunami.
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