NEW DELHI (Agencies): In response to losing its foothold in the Maldives due to Chinese influence, India is strategically bolstering its presence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). The Indian Navy is constructing a naval air base in the Lakshadweep Islands group, specifically on Minicoy Island. This move aims to mitigate the impact of losing proximity to the Maldives, which lies just 507 kilometers away in the Arabian Sea.

  • Minicoy Island: A Strategic Alternative

Minicoy Island, part of the Lakshadweep archipelago, is poised to become a vital outpost for India. Its location positions it as an alternative gateway to the Maldives, offering a strategic foothold in the Western part of the Indian Ocean. The induction of the new base, named INS Jatayu, is scheduled for the first week of March 2024. Interestingly, this timeline aligns with the withdrawal of Indian troops from the Maldives.

  • China’s Influence and the Importance of the Maldives

China’s growing influence in the Maldives has raised concerns for India. While the Maldives may be small in size, its geographical significance cannot be overstated. The scattered islands of the Maldives span a 960-kilometer submarine ridge that bisects the Indian Ocean. This ridge acts as a natural barrier, creating two critical sea lanes of communication (SLOCs) for maritime trade:

  • Southern SLOC: Connecting the Strait of Malacca in Southeast Asia to the Gulf of Aden.
  • Northern SLOC: Linking the Strait of Malacca to the Gulf of Hormuz in West Asia.
  • These SLOCs are essential for international trade and energy flow, making the Maldives a strategic toll gate in the Indian Ocean.
  • INS Jatayu: A Boost to Indian Naval Presence

The commissioning of INS Jatayu on Minicoy Island will significantly enhance the Indian Navy’s operational capabilities in the region. The base will serve as a hub for naval air operations, allowing frontline fighter jets, including the formidable Rafales, to operate effectively in the Western IOR. By establishing this foothold, India aims to maintain its maritime security interests and counterbalance China’s expanding footprint.

As geopolitical dynamics evolve, India’s strategic moves in the Indian Ocean remain critical, and INS Jatayu represents a proactive step toward safeguarding its interests in this vital maritime theater.

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