New Delhi: India Monday took a major step towards strengthening of the security of its island territories, an issue that has acquired urgency in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai terror strikes, by commissioning a full-fledged naval base in the Lakshadweep Islands in the Arabian Sea.
The base, christened INS Dweeprakshak, was commissioned at Kavaratti in the Lakshadweep archipelago by Southern Naval Commander Vice Admiral K.N. Sushil.
Following a 50-man honour guard, the naval base was named by Lakshadweep State Social Welfare Board chairperson Sunitha Ismail. The base’s first commanding officer, Captain S.M. Hanchinal, read out the commissioning warrant and hoisted the naval ensign.
At the ceremony, Sushil said: “Lakshadweep islands form the maritime frontiers of our country on the western side.” He noted that the commissioning of a full-fledged naval base was another milestone in the commitment of the Indian Navy to maintain effective coastal surveillance and defence capability.
The officer also informed that the radar stations and other surveillance measures were in place for shipping traffic monitoring and intelligence gathering.
The Indian Navy has been operating a detachment at Kavaratti since the early 1980s.
With the commissioning of INS Dweeprakshak, the island territories would see calibrated strengthening of assets in step with their growing relevance to the security calculus of the nation.
A firmer footing in the islands, which are spread out astride some of the busiest shipping lanes of the world would provide the necessary wherewithal to the Indian Navy to suitably discharge its responsibilities.
Indian naval warships, on anti-piracy patrol in the south Arabian Sea, would now extend their reach farther with base support from INS Dweeprakshak. The INS Dweeprakshak commanding officer will also function as naval officer in charge of Lakshadweep and Minicoy.
Lakshadweep is India’s only coral island chain. The archipelago consists of 36 islands, 12 atolls, 3 reefs and 5 submerged banks.
Only 10 islands – namely, Agatti, Amini, Andrott, Bitra, Chetlat, Kadmat, Kalpeni, Kavaratti, Kiltan and Minicoy – are inhabited. Kavaratti is the administrative headquarters of the union territory. The islands are restricted area and a permit is required to visit the islands. The islands have a total area of 32 sq.km. and the lagoons enclosed by the atolls cover an area of 4,200 sq.km.