India gets hawk eye of Strait of Malacca

New Delhi:  India will on Tuesday formally open a key naval station, aptly named INS Baaz (Hawk), in the southern part of Andaman and Nicobar Islands that will boost its ability to keep an eagle eye on critical maritime choke-point: the Strait of Malacca.

With navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma declaring the base open, the nation's southeastern-most fringe, which is closer to Indonesia than the Indian mainland, India will gain strategic supremacy in the area, an Indian Navy officer said here.

 India gets hawk eye of Strait of Malacca

Andaman and Nicobar. Agencies

The new base, which will also include an upgraded air base, will soon be operating heavier military planes from the Indian Air Force fleet like the just-inducted Hercules C-130J Super Hercules meant for special forces' operations.

Campbell Bay straddles a strategically key location in the Indian Ocean/Bay of Bengal overlooking the mouth of the Strait of Malacca, from across Aceh in Indonesia. With this, the Indian military will be sitting pretty at a location from where it can kickstart operations if maritime activities in the region are threatened.

Once a piracy-affected region, Indian and Indonesian navies continue to monitor it for criminal activities by jointly patrolling their maritime borders.

India's move comes even as the US has spelt out its future military strategy to focus on the Asia-Pacific by "re-balancing" its force levels from the Atlantic.

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta had said at the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore last month - and in New Delhi earlier - that the US will base at least 60 percent of its naval assets in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Strait of Malacca acts as a key link between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, connecting East Asia, Australia and the US with Asia and Africa.

At least a quarter of the world's trade— and more importantly, at least 80 percent of China's oil requirements — passes through the Strait of Malacca.

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 the north Andamans, Port Blair and Car Nicobar.

The new base will significantly increase India's strategic reach in the region, considering that Campbell Bay is about 300 nautical miles south of Car Nicobar, till now the navy's major forward operating base in the area.

IANS

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Updated Date: Jul 30, 2012 16:32:10 IST