Andaman and Nicobar Command

The Andaman and Nicobar Command is the first and only Tri-service theater command of the Indian Armed Forces, based at Port Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a Union Territory of India.[2][3] It was created in 2001 to safeguard India's strategic interests in Southeast Asia and the Strait of Malacca by increasing rapid deployment of military assets in the region. It provides logistical and administrative support to naval ships which are sent on deployment to East Asia and the Pacific Ocean.[4][5][6]

Andaman and Nicobar Command
INS Saryu, one of the two Saryu-class patrol vessels home-ported at INS Jarawa, Port Blair, under the A&N Command.
Active2001–
Country India
HeadquartersPort Blair
Commanders
CINCANLieutenant General Podali Shankar Rajeshwar, AVSM VSM ADC [1]

History

The 750-km long Andaman and Nicobar archipelago consists of a chain of 572 islands, and is located about 1200 km from mainland India, but is merely 90 km from Indonesia and 45 km from Myanmar, 160 km from Indonesia and 550 km for Thailand. The island chain had remained underdeveloped because of multiple factors including lack of inter-island connectivity, distance from the Indian mainland and high-cost of building materials. In the 1960s, the Indian security establishment responded to the increased security threats and established a unified Fortress Andaman and Nicobar (FORTAN) under the command of a Vice Admiral as the Fortress Commander. The Indian Army initially placed a battalion and subsequently the 108 Mountain Brigade, in 1990, under the command of the Fortress Commander. The Indian Air Force chose to keep its units under one of its mainland commands and maintained a liaison with the FORTAN headquarters. 37 Wing of the Indian Air Force was raised at AFS Car Nicobar in 1993.[7]

There was a consideration to replace Fortress Commander, Andaman and Nicobar Islands (FORTAN) with a Far Eastern Naval Command (FENC). The previous plan to set up FENC was set in motion in 1995 following a closed-door meeting in Washington between then Indian Prime Minister, P. V. Narasimha Rao, and then US president, Bill Clinton. At the time, Pentagon officials made a formal request to the United Front coalition government in New Delhi to open a base in the islands.[8]

In 1999, after the Kargil War, Andaman and Nicobar Islands received more attention.[7] The Group of Ministers (GoM) report on Reforming the National Security System recommended the replacement of the FORTAN, under the Indian Navy, with a Joint Andaman and Nicobar Command which will control the assets of the tri-services and the Coast Guard on the islands. The GoM had recommended that the Commander of this Joint Command would report to the proposed Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). The Andaman and Nicobar Command was in place by the end of September 2001 and Vice Admiral (later Admiral and CNS) Arun Prakash was the first Commander–in–Chief of the Andaman & Nicobar Command (CINCAN).[4][9][10] A joint command at Andaman and Nicobar Islands would help in to prevent smuggling, piracy, drug and gun trafficking, poaching and illegal immigration in the region and especially in the Malacca Strait. The command would also be in a position to assist the multinational Malacca Straits Security Initiative, aimed at curbing threats in the Malacca Straits.[5][11][12] An Indian command in the islands could also counter any future threat from China, which was rumoured to have set up a surveillance post in Myanmar's Coco Islands, 40 km off the northern tip of the Andamans, but this was proved incorrect.[13][14][15]

Force structure

CINCAN

The Andaman and Nicobar Command is commanded by a Three-star officer (rank of Lieutenant General of the Indian Army or equivalent) who reports directly to the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (Charman COSC) in New Delhi. The Chief of Staff of the command is a two-star officer; each component (sea, land, air) is commanded by a one-star officer.[16][17][18] The command is currently headed by Lieutenant General P S Rajeshwar, who took command on 1 December 2019 as its 14th commander.[19][20]

Assets

The Naval Component is the largest component and is commanded by a Naval Commodore (one star officer). Naval vessels in the component include missile corvettes, amphibious warfare vessels, landing crafts, offshore patrol vessels (OPV) and fast attack crafts (FAC). INS Karmuk and INS Kulish, two Kora-class corvettes were re-based to Port Blair from Eastern Naval Command on 6 April 2016 and 21 December 2017 respectively.[21][22] INS Saryu and INS Sumedha, two Saryu-class patrol vessels, have been based at Port Blair since 2013.[23] In addition, four Bangaram-class patrol vessels, two Car Nicobar-class patrol vessels, one Trinkat-class patrol vessel, three Kumbhir-class tank landing ships, one Shardul-class tank landing ship, four Mk. III LCUs, two Mk. IV LCUs and the SDB Mk.3 large patrol craft are also deployed under the naval component.[24][25] INAS 318 with Dornier Do 228 and Flight 321 are deployed at INS Utkrosh.[7]

The 108 Infantry Brigade of the Indian Army, comprising three battalions, which includes the 21 Bihar, is deployed at Birchgunj under the army component. A Territorial Army battalion is also deployed at Campbell Bay.[26][27][7] 15 FBSU, comprising 153 Squadron and 4 Maritime Element, are deployed at Port Blair. 37 Air Wing, comprising Helicopters from 122 squadron and Dornier Do 228 from 151 squadron, are deployed at AFS Car Nicobar.[28][7]

The Andaman & Nicobar region of the Indian Coast Guard also falls under the purview of the command with RHQ and 745 squadron at Port Blair, DHQ 9 at Diglipur and DHQ 10 at Campbell Bay.[29][30][7] In July 2012, the navy commissioned INS Baaz, a naval air station which is located 300 nautical miles south of Port Blair and is the southernmost air station of the Indian Armed Forces.[24] INS Jarawa is the support base for the ships and the establishments in Port Blair.

Modernization

In 2013, the navy proposed to station a nuclear submarine and a landing deck platform at the islands in the future, and the Indian Air Force has decided to station Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighters on the islands along with increasing the number of operational airfields. The Air Force also maintains an Air Defense Wing fielding a squadron of S-75 Dvina Long-Range SAMs and a squadron of S-125 Neva/Pechora Medium-range SAMs.[5] The army's single brigade is planned to be increased by deploying a division size force (about 15,000 troops) under the command.[6][31][32] In 2015, it was reported that under the overall "island development plan", which includes a new naval air station at Campbell Bay, the existing runways at Campbell Bay and Shibpur are to be extended, while more airstrips are proposed in the archipelago and more operational turn-around bases.[28] The number of naval vessels based in the island chain will increase to 32 before 2022.[33] In addition, Japanese war bunkers, constructed during Japanese occupation of the Andaman and Nicobar islands during the World War II, will be revived to bolster security.[34]

Operations

The Andaman and Nicobar Command manages Indian engagement with regional navies of Southeast Asia. It conducts bi-annual coordinated patrols (CORPATs) with the navies of Thailand and Indonesia, the annual SIMBEX maritime exercises with Singapore, and the biennial Milan multilateral naval exercises.[35][36][37] The Command also patrols India's exclusive economic zone to suppress gun running, narcotics smuggling, piracy, and poaching, and conducts maritime surveillance, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.[38][39][40]

In April 2016, the command conducted an amphibious exercise called 'Jal Prahar' to check readiness and to ensure functional integrity of all three services on the islands. Ships, aircraft and troops along with tanks from both the Eastern Naval Command and Andaman & Nicobar Command participated in the exercise.[41] Defence of Andaman & Nicobar Islands Exercise (DANX-17) was conducted during 20–24 November 2017. Additional forces including Jaguar fighters, 50th Parachute Brigade, missile frigates and C-130 Hercules heavy lift aircraft also participated in the exercise. The purpose of the exercise was to practice the defence of the island chain and recapturing islands.[42][43]

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

Surface and airborne assets from the Andaman and Nicobar Command took part in the effort to search Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. The command contributed navy ships INS Saryu, INS Kesari and INS Kumbhir, and coast guard vessels ICGS Kanaklata Baruah, ICGS Bhikaji Cama and ICGS Sagar.[44][45][46] For aerial maritime surveillance, the command dedicated two navy Boeing P-8I Neptunes, coast guard Dornier Do 228, and Indian Air Force C-130J Super Hercules from Port Blair, and navy Dornier Do 228 from Car Nicobar. The Commander-in-Chief Andaman and Nicobar Command was nominated as the Overall Force Commander of the Indian forces,[47] which included air force Mil Mi-17, and navy Shivalik-class frigates INS Satpura and INS Sahyadri, and patrol vessel INS Batti Malv from the Eastern Naval Command.[48][49][50]

List of bases

The following are the air and naval bases under the A&N command.[51][7]

Base City Role
INS Kardip Kamorta Logistics support
INS Jarawa Port Blair Logistics and Administrative support
INS Utkrosh Joint Naval and Air Force Base at Veer Savarkar International Airport
INS Baaz Campbell Bay Naval Air Station
INS Kohassa Diglipur Naval Air Station
Car Nicobar AFS Car Nicobar Air Force Base

See also

References

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