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Andaman and Nicobar Command

In August 2001 India unveiled plans to set up a strategic command in Andaman and Nicobar islands to make its Navy more effective in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. The new tri-service command has a large air force deployment including a fighter squadron and a unit of helicopters. The army, which had a brigade in Andaman, will increase its presence to a division, totalling about 8,000 soldiers.

The islands, which lie 1,190 kilometres east of the southern city of Chennai, was the site of Naval skirmishes between India, the Dutch and the Portuguese in the 18th century and later between the British and Japanese. In 2000 the military establishment called for a strategic command there, arguing that such a facility will counter Chinese monitoring centers in Myanmar. Because of the fact that many of the islands were uninhabited it had become a safe waterway for gun runners and poachers.

The Group of Ministers' (GoM) report on Reforming the National Security System recommended the replacement of the Fortress Commander Andaman and Nicobar Islands (Fortan), who is from the Indian Navy, and have a Joint Andaman and Nicobar Command which will control the assets of the three services and the Coast Guard. The GoM had recommended that the Commander of this Joint Command would report to the proposed Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).

The Joint Andaman and Nicobar Command, established for the first time in the country, was in place by the end of September 2001. The new command, which comprises the Army, Navy, Air Force and the Coast Guard, initially had a naval commander-in-chief appointed by the Cabinet. Subsequently, the command will be headed by a suitable officer from any of the three services. Described as the `sentinel post' for the east and south, the command brought about a qualitative difference to operations and surveillance in that region.

In the early years after independence, lndia's defence expenditure was very low and Navy got the smallest portion of the total defence budget. The security and the development of outlying Indian Ocean territories (Andaman & Nicobar Islands) received low priority in total Indian perspective planning. In 1957, these territories beame a Union Territory. The hydrographic survey and navigational charts of certain islands of Andaman and Nicobar group was carried out by the Indian Navy in 1957-58. A five year agreement was signed between Governments of India and Indonesia for an expedition to Andaman known as Expedition Survival. This was undertaken in the year 1960. The objective of this expedition was to test the survival of equipment and problems involved in it.

The work on hydrographic survey and navigational charts of different islands of the Andaman and Nicobar group continued in the following years. In 1961-62, the Naval Laboratory at Cochin carried out investigations of underwater, oceanography of sea water mine circuits and electrical installations used by the Navy in this area.

An international Indian Ocean expedition was organised by the Indian Committee on Oceanic Research in 1962-63 to collect scientific data and morphology of sea-bed in which the Indian Navy was a major participant.

In 1963-64, a resident naval officers organisation was set up at Port Blair with the necessary transport and communication facilities which was named as INS Jarawa. In the same year, naval garrison with facilities for moving to the various isalnds was also set up. The Commonwealth exercise was held in the Bay of Bengal in 1963 to enable Indian fleet to maintain itself at a high standard of efficiency. In 1964, a decision was taken to develop a major naval base at Visakhapatnam. At the same time, it was decided to develop repair facilities at Port Blair and naval air station at Dabolin (Goa). Next year, construction of a wharf at Port Blair began. In 1969, logistic facilities in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands were planned in consultation with other ministries.

In 1970, the Directorate of Naval Design was established. In 1970-71, a long term naval plan was chalked out. The Andaman and Nicobar naval establishments were put under the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Naval Command. In the year 1971, a three-phased plan in which a base repair organisation at Port Blair and meteorological office at Port Blair and Nancowry was approved for the development of an advanced naval base in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The base repair organisation was commissioned in 1978.

In 1977, an interim Coast Guard organisation was set up. In 1978, Coast Guard organisation at Port Blair for the Andaman and Nicobar region became operational. The functions assigned to Navy and Coast Guard included, ensuring safeguarding and protection of offshore establishments, providing protection to fishermen including assistance to them at sea when in distress, protection of maritime environment and control of marine pollution, assisting the customs department in anti-sumuggling activities, enforcing the provisions of enactments and taking measure for safety of life and property at sea and collection of scientific data.

On May 11, 1985, INS Utkrosh, the first naval air station in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, was commissioned.

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