India Launches New Naval Base to Expand Presence in the Indian Ocean

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As India continues to project its naval power in the Arabian Sea with the ongoing Houthi attacks, India’s navy is planning for an expanded presence in the Indian Ocean region. This week, the country’s Defense Minister Rajnath Singh is scheduled to commission a new naval base on Minicoy Island, Lakshadweep, which is one of the Union territories in the Indian Ocean.

During the launch, the minister will be accompanied by the navy top brass aboard both of India’s aircraft carriers – INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant. In fact, this will be the first time that the two platforms will participate in a twin carrier operation.

According to Defense Ministry officials, the base will help the navy provide better coverage of the Indian Ocean and “keep an eye on the activities of adversaries in the region.” The base will provide similar capability like the naval base INS Baaz, located on the east coast of India in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The initial plan for INS Jatayu is to start with a component of few officers but will be expanded into a larger naval station. A new airfield capable of handling all classes of fighter jets and aircraft is also in the works.

The new base on Minicoy Island borders the EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) of the Maldives, a region where Chinese naval vessels are intensifying operations. In the last few weeks, the Chinese research vessel Xiang Yang Hong 03 has been carrying out oceanic surveys in the outside limits of the EEZs of India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. A week ago, the vessel made a port call at Male in the Maldives and spent four days at the anchorage.

This level of Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean have been a major concern for New Delhi. To counter the influence, India has sought to bolster its strongholds in the Indian Ocean’s islands, with new naval bases as part of the plan.

Last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi – together with his Mauritius counterpart Pravind Jugnauth – inaugurated an airstrip and jetty in the Agalega Islands, Mauritius. Both projects were financed by India and are part of a bilateral partnership between the two countries in ensuring security and stability in the Indian Ocean region.

“The airstrip and jetty will enhance the island’s capacity and capabilities in marine surveillance and security,” said Prime Minister Jugnauth.

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