ins jatayu

Control of the sea is not merely a matter of naval competence; it is an imperative for national survival and economic prosperity.

– Alfred Thayer Mahan

The picturesque archipelago of 36 islands, Lakshadweep, situated in the southwest corner of India in the Arabian Sea since independence was under-explored for its various potential. However, in recent months it has gained traction like never before, after Indian PM Modi’s visit to the islands in early January this year. Since then, the island group has been massively promoted and several infrastructure development projects have been announced and are underway. Amongst which the most recent addition to these developments is the INS Jatayu naval base which is going to be commissioned on the 6th of March this year during the commanders’ conference week.

The INS Jatayu, a forward operating naval base, is being commissioned by the Indian Navy in order to maintain its stronghold in the Arabian Sea region. The base is modelled after INS Baaz which is situated in the Andaman Islands and will provide similar tactics and operational support in India’s western sea region. The base will be an addition to India’s four pre-existing naval bases in the islands, which are 

  • INS Dweeprakshak in Kavratti Island, a Logistics and Maintenance support base.
  • INS Minicoy in Minicoy Island, a Forward operating base.
  • INS Androth in Androth Island, a Forward operating base and radar station.
  • INS Bitra in Bitra Island, a Forward operating base.

The planned extended airstrip at Agatti which will be developed in the naval base, will enable the flying operations of Sukhoi-30 and Rafale aircraft, which will not only dominate the entire Indian Ocean but will also deny any naval or flying operation of the rival forces like China and Pakistan. The INS Jatayu will be a forward operating base, enabling the navy to deploy warships, fighter planes and helicopters for the purpose of both offence and defence in the time of need 

“This will strengthen Indian Navy foothold in the area to keep an eye on the military and commercial activities of adversaries, as this is around 76 miles from the islands of the Maldives,” is the official statement regarding the base. The Indian Navy is also going to demonstrate the twin carrier, INS Vikrant and INS Vikramaditya operations in the areas near Lakshadweep. This would be the first time, after the induction of INS Vikrant that the Navy would be carrying out the operations of the two aircraft carriers together.


Strategic brilliance

Due to the timing and positioning, the commissioning of the naval base in Lakshadweep is considered a masterstroke by the Indian Administration. This becomes clear when we understand the current geopolitical undercurrents of the southeastern region of the Indian Ocean.

The Indian Ocean particularly the Arabian Sea region is currently one of the most delicate sea region of the world. The activities of Houthi rebels and the increased presence of Somali pirates necessitate the presence of the Indian navy in the region, as almost 80% of India’s trade comes through here. The base in Minicoy is a great addition to this, as it adds up to India’s tri-service strategic command that oversees the entire Indian Ocean from Australia to the coast of Africa to Malacca Strait.

The island Minicoy is situated at a mere 76 miles distance from Maldives. Traditionally India and Maldives has a close ties as India on numerous occasion has supported Maldives in building infrastructure, medicine, security operation and tourism revenues. However, in recent times the country has become increasingly pro-China. It has gathered a massive amount of Chinese debt and its decisions were continuously influenced by the Chinese establishment. This poses a serious threat to India and the INS Jatayu base is the perfect counter-action for this current and future threats. Apart from this, the decision is also helping to promote the island and adds another turning point in the “Maldives vs Lakshadweep” controversy.

Misconstrued Controversy Repercussions

What should have been a simple video promoting Indian tourism, immature and unprecedented derogatory remarks from Maldivian ministers made it into a diplomatic row between the two countries. On the 4th of January this year Indian PM Narendra Modi released a video of himself strolling on the pristine Lakshadweep beach and in the captions, he praised the beauty of the island and urged the citizens to visit the country’s hidden marvel. This was said to be done for the promotion of domestic tourism in the island groups. However, some of the Maldivian government ministers felt insecure about this video, as India was the largest tourism contributor, with approximately 10.9% of its GDP. The current government which is under the leadership of Mohamed Muizzu has taken an anti-India and pro-China stance since their ascendance. The 3 ministers put out derogatory remarks about the Indian PM and racist remarks towards Indian tourists.

This caught fire in social media and Indians together took a united initiative in boycotting Maldives. Prominent names, business houses, celebrities, politicians and cricketers also stood in solidarity with the nation. The matter also went to the administrative level and the representative of the island country was also summoned to the Indian High Commission. In the Maldives, the Indian contribution to tourism saw a steep fall as tickets and events were cancelled in massive amounts from the Indian side. Several local comminates took a massive hit because of the decline. As of now, the country is moving towards economic collapse, as per the warning of the IMF. It has also gathered a substantial amount of Chinese debt, which previous records suggest is a ticking economic time bomb.

Tourism, Security and More

Lakshadweep however came as a winner from this row, as the island group is looking forward to several government and private development projects. Amongst them are the Kochi-Lakshadweep Islands Submarine Optical Fiber Connection (KLI-SOFC), Low-Temperature Thermal Desalination Plant for the desalination of seawater, Solar Power Plant in Kavaratti. In the private front, a five-star hotel with over 100 rooms coming up soon in Kavaratti. The tender process is over. Taj Group of hotels have started work on constructing water villas and resorts on two islands of Suheli and Kadmat in Lakshadweep. The Taj at Suheli will feature 110 rooms housing 60 villas on the beach and 50 water villas. The Taj at Kadmat also known as Cardamom Island which is a marine protected area with sea-beds will have 110 rooms, out of which 75 would be beach villas and 35 water villas. Both these are Greenfield projects and are expected to be ready for the public by 2026. A Tent city is being constructed at Agatti Island and a resort with a total of 400 rooms coming up on Bangaram Island and Thinnakara Island. Adding to these the government’s focus on security projects and its consistent promotion puts Lakshadweep on its way to fulfilling its abundant potential. Inauguration of INS Jatayu will be fillip the ongoing security efforts and boost the tourism in coming years making it one of the most sought tourist destination.

This is article has been written by Subhakanta Bhanja

By thewonk