The airfield at Shibpur, Diglipur (North Andaman) is about 1,000 feet in length and is inadequate for smaller cargo aircraft like Dornier and AN-32. Currently, only helicopters are capable of conducting operations from the airfield.
More airfields and helipads will boost the surveillance and logistics capability of the Indian armed forces along the significant archipelago, located about 700 nautical miles away from the Indian mainland.
Senior officials say more airfields in the Andaman and Nicobar tri-service command are also in the offing.
Presently, there are airbases in Port Blair, Car Nicobar, and Campbell Bay. According to senior Indian Naval officers, plans are afoot to spread out air power in other islands like Katchal (Nicobar District) and Hut Bay (Little Andaman).
“We also intend to bring in night landing facility at the airbases,” Verma said.
The Indian Navy has recently inducted its amphibious vessel Landing Ship Tank (LST) in the Andaman and Nicobar command.
“We have inducted an LST and soon we will be inducting Operation Patrol Vehicles constructed at the Goa Shipyard Limited,” Verma said.
Andaman and Nicobar islands are significant for increasing surveillance in the Indonesian Strait and the Bay of Bengal. It would also help India extend its maritime power in South China Sea before the Chinese foreclose the option.
Coincidentally, in her annual budget speech, Ms Mamata Banerji, Minister for Railways in India proposed 114 socially desirable projects for updating the surveys and then to process through the Planning Commission. The proposed Port Blair-Diglipur line stands at serial No. 84 in the list of 114.
She said in her budget speech, “In my last budget speech, I had highlighted the need to take up socially desirable projects connecting backward areas. Many proposals for such connectivity have been pending for a long time. It is proposed to update the surveys for the following lines and thereafter these will be processed through Planning Commission for necessary approvals.”
Well, although this would be a good stride ahead in terms of the development of the serene island territory, whether the government goes about implementing these plans meticulously extending due consideration and caution to sensitively crucial issues such as environment, ecology, tribal and reserve forest issues etc., remains a big question mark…