March 22, 2018

Arithmetic eclipses chemistry in UP

When your supporters refuse to stand behind you, your strength goes down.

By Ravi Shanker Kapoor -

March 22, 2018


Arithmetic eclipses chemistry in UP

Some of the traditional supporters may be voting for anti- BJP parties. Which means that even chemistry may be going against the ruling party.

In the run-up to the 2014 general poll, Narendra Modi was asked by an interviewer how he would cross the magic figure of 272, as the numbers were not adding up. His answer was simple: this is not an election of arithmetic but of chemistry. He was right: the exceptionally bad two successive governments under the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance had created such a political situation that people began yearning for something better, something new. Modi fitted the bill. The BJP ‘s (Bharatiya Janata Party) dismal performance in the recent by-polls in UP and Bihar, however, has underlined that chemistry is dead, and arithmetic is back in the reckoning.

In fact, being an exact science, arithmetic has always played a role in Indian politics; in exceptional circumstances, however, chemistry eclipses arithmetic. That is, Modi was able to convince a large section of the electorate that he was the right choice; the convincing was so thorough that all the calculations of analysts and experts went awry; the BJP won decisively.

Earlier, it had happened in 1977, when Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay Gandhi’s tyranny, along with the excesses of the Emergency, cost the grand old party dearly; for the first time after Independence, it lost power. It happened again in 1989 when an ingenuous Rajiv Gandhi lost to the disingenuousness of a crafty V.P. Singh.

Modi regime is essentially socialist in ideology, mindset, and disposition.

But Modi and his man Friday Amit Shah seem to have lost sight of the fact that chemistry is not a regular occurrence; in the last 13 general elections, it played the critical role thrice only. It presupposes a mood: it was anger (with authoritarianism) in 1977, disappointment (with Rajiv’s cluelessness) in 1989, and hope (emanating from Modi’s promises) in 2014.

And without chemistry, arithmetic asserts itself, as it did in UP in particular, with the unexpected tie-up between the arch-rivals SP and BSP. In Bihar, there were no changes: while the Rashtriya Janata Dal retained the Araria Lok Sabha constituency as well as the Jehanabad Assembly seat, the BJP managed to keep the Bhabhua Assembly seat.

It is UP, the largest and most important state, which is sending ominous signals to the saffron party. Less than a year ago, it gave thumbs up to whatever Modi said, did, and stood for. UP’s people even forgave, rather rewarded, him for the disastrous demonetization of high-currency notes he had unilaterally carried out in November 2016. Millions of jobs were lost, the entire ecosystemswere hurt or destroyed, and the economy suffered just because the Modi-Shah duo was desperate to win a state election. The duo succeeded in convincing the populace that everything was for the good of the man in the street and, equally importantly, to penalize the corrupt and the rich. The mass feeling is best described by the German word ‘schadenfreude,’ described by as ‘satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else’s misfortune.’ Not the noblestof feelings indeed, but then there is little noble in politics, certainly in Modi-Shah’s politics.

But the bottom line was that they won handsomely, winning over three-fourths of Assembly seats.

Unfortunately, the ruling dispensation has not been as capable in policy formulation as it is adept in winning elections. It can promise but it can’t deliver; and this is primarily because the Modi regime is essentially socialist in ideology, mindset, and disposition. I have written copiously about its orientation; whether it is the issue of the ownership of public sector banks, labour reforms, or opening up the farm sector, the government is usually in agreement with big state enthusiasts.

When a party’s core constituency shows apathy to polls, it should get worried.

And because the big state needs big money all the time, the government under Modi is always in search of it. The long spell of low crude prices filled the exchequer at the expense of vehicle owners, but the hunger for more never gets quelled. Income-taxpayers have got little relief in the last four years; traders, shopkeepers, and businessmen are tormented by GST. And the government, unresponsive to the concerns of the taxpayer, is just telling them that their money is being used for nation-building. Of course, part of nation-building is also keeping the Vijay Mallyas, the Nirav Modis, and the Mehul Choksis in good humour, but that’s another story.

The upshot is that the salaried class, traders, and shopkeepers—indeed the entire middle class—are suffering because of the unimaginative policies, the callous approach of the government, and the overbearing attitude of taxmen. Come to think of it: though urban areas are usually BJP strongholds, in the Assembly segment of Allahabad North the voter turnout was just 21.65 percent and in Allahabad West it was 31 percent (bother in Phulpur). Similarly, Gorakhpur City saw 33 percent voting.

When a party’s core constituency shows apathy to polls, it should get worried. The BJP, though, is unbothered. In my discussion with party supporters when I point out the middle class’ disillusionment with Modi, they say, “Where else would they [middle-class people] go?”

What the BJP doesn’t realize is that they may not go anywhere—that is, they may just skip voting. Many of them did in UP; a few months ago, a similar pattern was noticeable in Ajmer and Alwar, the two Lok Sabha constituencies in Rajasthan where the BJP was trounced. When your supporters refuse to stand behind you, your strength goes down. This is common sense and simple arithmetic.

Worse, some of the traditional supporters may be voting for anti-BJP parties. Which means that even chemistry may be going against the ruling party.

1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus

March 21, 2018

Feudal Bugti, commoner Mengal in war of words over Jumma Marri

Feudal Bugti, commoner Mengal in war of words over Jumma Marri

March 21, 2018

Brahumdagh Bugti (left) with Dr Jumma Marri in Geneva about 14 months ago.

The Republican News Network, which is believed to be managed by loyalists of exiled Brahumdagh Bugti, president of the Baloch Republicin Party has accused a German activist and a Baloch activist of joining hands with Moscow-based Dr Jumma Marri, leading to a war of words in Switzerland--thousands of miles away from Balochistan..

The accusations followed the Baloch Voice Foundation, which is led by Munir Mengal, holding successful side events at the Palace of Nations during the 37th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The war of words started when the Republican News Network linked to Bugti's BRP and affiliated Baloch Republican Army (BRA) published a news item Thrusday that said "Munir Mengal, Claudia Heidelberg, along with others, have joined the team of Jumma Marri." tTe news item did not carry anything in the story itself, though the name of the Baloch and German activist were mentioned in the headline. A message to Brahumdagh Bugti and his lieutenant Sher Mohammed Bugti over the news item was still awaited by the time of filing of this report.

"I am highly informed about all," Claudia Heidelberg who works with Richard Benkins of the US said. "Jumma (Marri) still wants the best for Balochs. He would change again if needed," she stressed.

She said Dr Marri tries now to solve problems of Balochs with Pakistan so "That they don't get killed." Dr Jumma Marri has vowed to fight the pro-liberation feudal lords of Balochistan at the international level and had accused India of hijacking the Baloch movemenet.

Ms Heidelberg said what so called freedom fighters are doing in Balochistan her government "sees it as terrorism and civil war." She said Germany is reluctant to help the Baloch under such circumstances.

"These freedom fighters are responsible for the reaction of the state. My government wants peace there then other states will help. This status now harms a lot of Balochs. And US and India are refusing to back a free Balochistan."

Heidelberg says Dr Marri has no bad intentions.  "The time is not ripe now for independence. We had a lot of talk with  Pashtuns and their leadership. They are united and organised and they don't make the mistake to fight with violence against the state. They try it nonviolent. Maybe this is better as a beginning for becoming one day independent. If time will be ripe Pakistan will fail."

Meanwhile, Munir Mengal described the news item against him as uncalled for. A news portal close to Mr Mengal said disrespecting  and spreading negative and bogus news had been a usual trend in Baloch politics particularly by the dictatorial feudal lords and so-called royalty against the commoner politicians and leaders in Balochistan. "Now we have seen a piece of it here in Europe," the SA Tribune reported.

“This is a completely fake and bogus news. Whenever I join any group, including that of Jumma Marri, I will announce it publicly. I do not need to get certification from any dubious group or person. I do not give the right to any person (to) try to defame,threaten and control us through his wishes and lies”.  Mr. Mengal responded

The BVA president said “There are a few frustrated individuals who have been doing this sort of things for a longtime. They do not know the human values and European values of mutual respect and tolerance and try to control people through their totalitarian mindset.”

Both Mengal and his younger brother Dr Ali Akbar Mengal are first class professional activists, though many Baloch say they are not good at keeping their promises

Is Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia shielding PNB scamsters Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi?

In the PNBScam of Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, Adhia faces more questions about his conduct

By Team PGurus -


March 21, 2018


In the PNBScam of Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, Adhia faces more questions about his conduct

First as the Secretary Banking and Financial Services, then as the Revenue Secretary and now as the Finance Secretary, Hasmukh Adhia from Gujarat cadre is the most powerful officer in the Finance Ministry. Owing to his proximity to the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister, he was the only bureaucrat outside the PMO and Economic Affairs Department, according to media reports, who was part of the team working on demonetization. Dr. Hasmukh Adhia, a Ph. D. in Yoga has an iron grip over the Department he heads, is known for ruthless micromanagement and has no friends in the team that he heads in the Finance Ministry. Antagonism, indifference, and brazenness have been the definitive ideas that have shaped his tenure.

Was it a deliberate ploy to notinvoke the Black Money and Benami prohibition legislations against the Nirav Modi group? Was there a design in place to ensure that there was no way in which a look-out-circular could be issued against Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi?

If there is one issue that ties the entire journey of Hasmukh Adhia in the Finance Ministry like a string of pearls, it is – Nirav Modi.

In the Punjab National Bank (PNB) Scam, it is now clear that 21,666 Letters of Undertaking (LoU) were issued after 26.05.2014. It is significant to mention that 1,070, 6189, 6669, 5878 LoUs were issued in 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2015 respectively[1]. All through this period, Adhia was in the Finance Ministry in very critical assignments.

Fig 1. LoUs issued by PNB during NDA

Adhia joined the Department of Banking and Financial Services in the Ministry of Finance in November 2014 and was moved to the Department of Revenue in August 2015. As someone who is known to be a control freak and subjects all entities in his department to microscopic scrutiny, it appears strange, rather intriguing, as to why Adhia did not check this unbridled disaster, right under his watch.

It is an evident fact that close to 7000 Letters of Undertaking (LoUs) were issued in the PNB scam during the tenure of Adhia as Financial Services Secretary. By the time he left for Revenue, the road was set for the smooth sailing of Nirav Modi and his uncle & Gitanjali Gems owner Mehul Choksi. The inevitable happened next.

Why hide the Income Tax Raid details of Jan 2017?

A senior official of Income-tax, on strict condition of anonymity, has provided PGurus, incriminatingdocuments pertaining to the search and investigations being conducted against the Nirav Modi group by the Income Tax Department.  On January 13, 2017, authorization was provided to search the premises/ assessees pertaining to the Nirav Modi group and the said authorization was executed on January 14, 2017. In total, 17 places were searched, out of which 15 pertain to Mumbai and one each in Delhi and Jaipur. The firms include Firestar Diamond, Firestar trading, Firestar International, Gitanjali Gems, Gitanjali Exports, Gitanjali Jewellery Retail, Gitanjali Brands etc.,

PGurus is presently withholding publication of the documents pertaining to search/ investigation for verification of the authenticity. We will – however – analyze in detail this issue.

First and foremost, as the evidence unearthed by the Income Tax department appear to be sound and legally strong, why did they not share the details with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or Enforcement Directorate (ED) or Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU)? Adhia is known to hold regular review meetings and the Income Tax department conducts no major search without the approval of the Revenue Secretary. That being the case, why was there such a major lapse? Is there an ulterior design? What is even more shocking is that, even after the scam tumbled out following the media coverage, the Income Tax Department has strictly guarded the evidence and has not provided all the documents to CBI, ED, and FIU, according to a whistleblower Income Tax officer. Is this a telling case of the integrity or absolute incompetence of Hasmukh Adhia? Being a well-known officer to Prime Minister Narendra Modi from his Gujarat days, did Adhia backstab Prime Minister’s declared fight against corruption?

Secondly, according to the whistleblower officer, there is no progress in the investigations made in the Nirav Modi case by Income Tax, even after 15 months. The Black Money Act and Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act were never invoked in this case, all through 2017. According to insiders, Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi were allowed to sell property after property, while the tax officials looked the other way. According to our whistleblower, there were strict instructions from the top to not proceed further against Nirav Modi. Did Adhia give any instructions to this effect? Did he keep the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the loop or make the decisions on his own? If these legislations were invoked, then a Look-out-circular would have been issued against both Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi and their fleeing from India would have been next to impossible. Nirav Modi and tax evasion are not different stories. The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), another agency under Adhia had seized jewelry to the tune of Rs.1000 crores ($160 million) from the firms of Nirav Modi. However, no prosecution was launched till the scam broke and Modi flew away from India. Why, Mr. Adhia? Is every agency in your Ministry absolutely incompetent or are you rewarding this kind of behavior, that there is a serious pattern emerging?

Thirdly, The Wire website recently carried a story on gold bars being deposited in the Toshakhana which were allegedly gifted by Nirav Modi to Adhia during the Diwali of 2016[2].

Adhia admitted to the website that he got gold bars. But he cleverly said he don’t know who was the gift supplier. Mr. Adhia, who are you fooling? As a Government servant, you should have alerted the CBI or Delhi Police first and submitting to Toshakhana is totally illegal. Here you are trying to save the person who gifted gold bars.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy has alleged that the said gold bars, gifted to a senior Finance Ministry official by Nirav Modi, were deposited in the Toshakhana only because they were mistakenly opened by the servant in front of another IAS officer who had come to wish Diwali. However, Swamy did not name any official who received these doubtful gifts. As strange as it may sound, the Gold bars don’t find any entry in the Toshakhana records and the missing gold bars and the mystery man will come back to haunt Adhia in days to come.

Uday Singh Kumawat, the trusted officer (Joint Secretary in Revenue Department) in the Adhia Administration has been playing mischief in this case too. Did he act as an intermediary in this case for Adhia? Is that the reason Adhia turned a blind eye to Kumawat and his debauchery that PGurus have reported in detail[3]? Was he rewarded for this very purpose by getting Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC) retrospectively extend his tenure in the Finance Ministry? Were all these details suppressed from the ACC headed by the Prime Minister?

Was it a deliberate ploy to not invoke the Black Money and Benami prohibition legislations against the Nirav Modi group? Was there a design in place to ensure that there was no way in which a look-out-circular could be issued against Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi? Was there an escape plan in place that was handed over to Nirav Modi to help him out?

This article poses more questions than answers. Though we are in possession of many documents pertaining to the Nirav Modi case, we are at present verifying the same before we run them here. The one question that begs a reply is – did Hasmukh Adhia let his naked ambition ride roughshod on all principles and ethics on which this Government had promised to fight corruption?

Adhia is known to be a stickler for vigilance issues and in most cases, he has taken very harshdecisions that were never heard of in the Ministry. PGurus is glad to hold the mirror to Adhia and request that he practice the standards he wants to preach. Adhia needs to answer now and we will continue to ask the important questions. He must reply as to why he withheld the Income Tax raid findings of January 2017 at Nirav Modi and uncle Mehul Choksi firms?

Truth has an uncanny way of manifesting itself and we will continue our quest for the truth.


[1] IT is still hushing up the probe against Chidambaram family under Black Money and Benami Acts – Mar 20, 2018,

[2] Exclusive: Finance Secretary Received Gold Biscuits as Gift for Diwali But Failed to Order Probe– Mar 13, 2018,

[3] More muck and sleaze tumbles out from the cupboards of the Finance Ministry – Mar 18, 2018,




MARCH 21, 2018

Editor’s Note: This is the nineteenth installment of “Southern (Dis)Comfort,” a series from War on the Rocks and the Stimson Center. The series seeks to unpack the dynamics of intensifying competition — military, economic, diplomatic — in Southern Asia, principally between China, India, Pakistan, and the United States. Catch up on the rest of the series.

India’s military priorities are highlighted by its defense budget: the army funded at 55 percent, the air force at 23 percent, and the navy at a meager 15 percent. Since independence, troubles along India’s continental borders, including wars with China and Pakistan, have kept the country’s defense focused on its northern frontiers. A quiet maritime environment and a strong navy inherited from the British have allowed India to establish a prominent role in the Indian Ocean region without much effort.

In particular, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands have been neglected in Delhi’s strategic and political priorities, especially given their distance (approximately 1200 kilometers from the mainland). Priorities within the navy focused on strengthening India’s immediate coastline while the islands’ potential was something to be taken advantage of later. However, recent developments in maritime Asia have forced Delhi to re-examine its naval priorities, and the current government has started showing more enthusiasm for maritime security.

The Indian Ocean, which remained quiet after the Cold War, is reemerging as a critical theater for strategic competition. As China expands its presence in the Indian Ocean and strengthens its engagement with littoral states in South Asia, India is beginning to formulate a new maritime approach to retain its prominence in the region. While India is concerned about China’s engagement across the Indian Ocean, developments in the South Asian maritime domain are of particular concern.

Critically situated near the Malacca Strait, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands could significantly alter the maritime dynamics in the Indo-Pacific. While the islands have been envisaged as a platform for offensive capabilities, their true benefit today lies in furthering maritime domain awareness and maintaining a naval advantage for India and its friends. In addition to formulating a coherent strategy for the role of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in its national maritime approach, Delhi must also find a way to make use of its partners in addressing the islands’ lack of physical infrastructure. While India has neglected its naval priorities, the maritime domain gives it an opportunity to establish itself as a leading regional actor. These maritime advantages will help India balance and respond to a rising and assertive China in its neighborhood.

Putting the Andamans into Perspective

Historically, maritime powers have used the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to project power in the Indian Ocean and as a key base for expeditions to the east. Rajendra Chola I of the Chola empire first tapped into their strategic advantages. The Chola dynasty was one of the most powerful in the history of South India, and its strong navy played a critical role in its expeditionary missions to Southeast Asia. After conquering modern-day Sri Lanka, Chola’s navy used the Andamans as a base to launch successful raids on the ports of the Srivijaya empire, based in modern-day Indonesia.

Among modern nation-states, the British and the Japanese effectively used the Andamans to advance their strategic aims. The British Empirekept a strong foothold in the Andamans and used them to expand its security footprint in the subcontinent and across the Indian Ocean. During World War II, the Japanese captured the islands in an attempt to fight the British and expand their presence in the region. Imperial Japan also used the islands to attack Burma and Northeast India.

Throughout history, these islands have been vital to nations expanding their maritime presence in the Indian Ocean. The Andamans provide a bridge between the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean and overlook one of the busiest sea lanes of communications in the world. Moreover, they are a key chokepoint and trading route for goods traversing the waters of the Indian Ocean to East and Southeast Asia.

Projecting Indian Power

India maintains an unparalleled geographic advantage over China in the Indian Ocean, since the Indian Navy is based in this theater. However, China is beginning to address its weaknesses in the Indian Ocean, such as by starting to forward deploy with its base in Djibouti. Beijing is building a series of commercial ports in the Indian Ocean that boost its strategic presence in the region. These ports— strategically located in Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives — could eventually serve a military purpose.

Unfortunately, the political class in Delhi has for far too long downplayed the emerging challenge that China poses in the maritime domain and overlooked its own advantages such as the Andamans. The Indian Ministry of Defence has been primarily focused on strengthening its capabilities along its northern borders, where India has territorial disputes with Pakistan in the west and China in the east. Delhi’s approach to the maritime domain is both new and largely reactive to the changing maritime environment. As the Sino-Indian competition continues to deepen in South Asia, Delhi must be willing to develop its advantages in the Indian Ocean region.

Beijing is concerned that, unless it can secure its own sea lanes of communication to the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf via the Malacca Strait, it could be vulnerable to a U.S. and India-led blockade during a conflict. Yet it is unlikely that the United States and India would do this given that any attempt to blockade the strait would amount to a declaration of war against China. While this remains an option in a wartime situation, there are other good reasons to develop the Andaman and Nicobar Islands that may contribute to deterring China.

The real advantage the Andamans provide to India is the ability to conduct surveillance over critical waters. As the main entry and exit point to and from the Indian Ocean, the islands offer unparalleled advantage in surveillance and monitoring the Malacca Strait. A coherent monitoring and response mechanism will help India detect Chinese vessels upon their entry into the Indian Ocean.

The Indian Navy’s 2015 maritime strategy lists maritime domain awareness as a critical tool for achieving a favorable maritime environment. The strategy takes a bolder approach to the changing environment and is much more forward-looking than its predecessor in 2007. Maritime domain awareness, according to the navy, “involves being cognizant of the position and intentions of all actors, whether own, hostile or neutral, and in all dimensions—on, over and under the seas.” If it can create the required “situational awareness” through surveillance and monitoring of the Malacca Strait, India and its partners will be prepared to respond to threatening developments. Maritime domain awareness through the Andamans is critical, especially in monitoring sub-surface vessels. If not detected while leaving harbor or transiting through the strait, submarines are almost impossible to track in open seas. Given its crucial location, the Malacca Strait could help India track the movements of Chinese submarines in the Indian Ocean. If detected at the entry point, India will be able to deploy the required assets to continue tracking such movements.

The Andamans also facilitate India’s reach over the Indonesian straits, which may become alternate transit routes for sub-surface vessels. Given the shallow waters and heavy traffic density of Malacca (which forces submarines to surface), it is likely that the straits of Sunda, Lombok, and Ombai will quickly become alternate routes for military vessels entering the Indian Ocean. In fact, China is already using the Lombok straits as a routine entry for its ships and vessels. While using these straits comes with legal and territorial issues, as well as other limitations, it is not impossible to use them. Relying on the geographical proximity afforded by the Andamans, India can collaborate with Indonesia to patrol and monitor these straits to uphold a rules-based order.

The Challenges India Faces

As India continues to develop the islands, it must prioritize strengthening its air, surface, and sub-surface surveillance capabilities. The islands need to be capable of basing and deploying surveillance resources and require stronger anti-submarine warfare and early warning capabilities. India should also upgrade the islands’ communications infrastructure and integrate it with maritime domain awareness facilities on the mainland. The current infrastructure is poor and cannot sustain a coherent surveillance strategy. There is an urgent need to enhance the islands’ intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance cover to fully utilize their potential.

However, transforming the islands from a strategic outpost to a key forward operating base will require significant development of the islands and procurement of new assets. The islands are currently home to modest military assets and infrastructure with tremendous, though underutilized, potential. Surveillance assets such as the P-8i’s are deployed to the Andamans from the mainland. The islands will require considerable military and civilian infrastructure to support the required force structure of a full-fledged forward operating military base.

However, developing these islands will carry massive environmental, sustainability, and tribal welfare challenges. There is an island-wide restriction on clearing land for development, and 94.68 percent of the islands is under forest cover. The presence of indigenous tribes on the islands has also restricted commercial activities and development near tribal areas. While the current government is taking initiatives to transform the islands into a maritime hub, the pace of progress is not fast enough to match maritime developments in the region.

While Delhi struggles to develop its own islands, Beijing is moving steadfastly to build maritime facilities in India’s neighborhood and across the Indian Ocean region. China’s deepening military and commercial engagements with the Indian Ocean littoral states could undermine India’s role if it fails to maintain its maritime advantages. While India debates a broader road map for developing the islands, it can utilize its existing facilities to strengthen its maritime domain awareness.

Transforming the Andamans into a Strategic Hub

One of India’s first attempts at strengthening its military presence on the islands was establishing the country’s only tri-services command in Port Blair in 2001. The command was established against the backdrop of increasing transnational crime around the islands and a better understanding of their strategic potential in the maritime domain. However, despite the presence of all three services, the Andaman and Nicobar Command has yet to realize its potential. The command has limited assets and presence in comparison to a theater-level presence of a joint command. While it has the potential to be the forward operating base for all of India’s engagements with Southeast Asia, right now it mainly acts as a logistical facility for deployments of India’s Eastern Naval Command to the East and Southeast Asia. Even for this role, the Andaman and Nicobar Command desperately needs an extension and upgrade of the runways, jetties, and ports located there.

The 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean significantly destroyed existing infrastructure on the Andamans, including major roads, lands, and bridges. Although Delhi made considerable reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts, major military infrastructure remains inadequately rebuilt. The tsunami aggravated the poor connectivity between the islands. One of the major routes linking North and South Andaman was damaged during the disaster and has yet to be fully reconstructed. The infrastructure and connectivity problems were largely neglected until recently. Since the islands are a biodiversity hotspot as well as home to about 27,000 members of indigenous tribes, most development and construction-related projects require clearancesfrom the Department of Environment and Forest and from the Department of Tribal Welfare. However, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the government has been able to push forward on many of these projects and get the necessary clearances to boost connectivity and infrastructure on the islands.

The appointment of Admiral D. K. Joshi, the former chief of the Indian Navy, as the lieutenant governor of the islands in October 2017 was a positive development that boosted Delhi’s more active approach. Establishing a former naval chief as administrative head will allow a better understanding of the security, economic, and commercial potential and limitations in developing the islands. Some recent initiatives have been focused on enhancing communications infrastructure, better connectivity, acquiring platforms for amphibious operations, strengthening maintenance and repair facilities, regular deployments of surveillance capabilities, strengthening military-to-military ties with Southeast Asia, and building missile facilities.

Leveraging India’s New Maritime Partnerships

While India has clearly shown its intention to develop the islands, it still faces significant challenges. Apart from environmental and tribal welfare concerns, the government also lacks the capital to build the required infrastructure on the islands. It must find a way to collaborate with its partners to advance its development vision. Many of India’s naval partners have specific expertise that can help in this area. For example, India and Japan are building infrastructure and connectivity corridors in the Indian Ocean, including the Asia-Africa Growth corridor. These initiatives provide an opportunity to develop many civilian projects on the islands, like ports and highways. Similarly, as India continues to build its partnership with the naviesof the United States, Australia, and Indonesia, it should use these collaborations to advance its maritime domain awareness capabilities on the islands, such as partnering with France on development of renewable energy. India has historically been sensitive about international involvement with the islands, barring even partners from making port calls and military visits outside of the MILAN exercise. But it must shed that cautious approach and start to discuss possible areas of collaboration.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands provide significant surveillance and monitoring advantages to India’s navy. If India can chart out a role for the islands in its maritime domain awareness project, it can achieve far greater deterrence through staging and power projection. Additionally, the Andamans provide excellent opportunities to deepen India’s new maritime partnerships with countries such as Japan, the United States, Australia, and France.

India’s approach is a testament to its continued neglect of its maritime advantages, though the attention given in the past few years has been an exception. Despite having significant coastline and positioning itself as a maritime power, Delhi has done little to elevate its actual maritime potential. It may be that the absence of confrontation in the maritime domain has allowed India to ignore its naval advantages as the Defense Ministry remained engaged in continental troubles. The lack of a coherent naval strategy has contributed significantly to such neglect.

Developing the Andaman and Nicobar Islands will give India new options and opportunities as it continues to grow its partnerships and respond to a rising China. The islands will contribute to India’s advantages, create more room for debate on deterrence policies, and contribute positively to India’s effort to establish itself as a serious regional actor. Conversely, however, continued neglect will call into question the country’s seriousness about maritime security — something India must prioritize as its foreign policy evolves.


Darshana M. Baruah is a research analyst and program administrator with Carnegie India. Her primary research focuses on maritime security in Asia with a focus on the Indian Navy and its role in a new security architecture.