Port Blair: With increasing Chinese assertiveness in the Indian ocean and Bay of Bengal noticeable of late, the Defence Ministry is now waking up to the need to upgrade and strengthen the decade old Andaman Nicobar Command.
India's farthest corner is getting a military boost, and the plan is ambitious. The marine commandos currently deployed on the naval ships will soon be backed by 6000 troops - that's three times of the current strength.
Closer to Indonesia than mainland India, this group of islands has been neglected in the past and treated as an outpost for a quite some time. However, now the thinking in the Indian government at the highest levels is changing and there is a plan to use Andaman Nicobar as a spring board to south East Asia, Malacca straits and other sea lanes of communication.
What's key is that the three forces are training together to act as one unit. That's rare within the military, especially on the mainland. And the police too is part of this.
"We have about 572 islands in Andaman and Nicobar. We have to dominate these islands so we send the people on patrol to carry familiarisation in these islands. In jaan pehchaan, we have the representatives from all the three components including coast guard, the police forest department but officers are from the Army. They go there, stay for nights and ensure that area is intact and dominated," said Brigadier Balwinder Singh.
For India's only tri-services Command, the motto is 'jointmanship' - frequent joint exercises to test the concepts of tri-services operations. Naval commandos, elements of Army's amphibious battalion and Air Force helicopters get involved in putting theory into practice.
In another first, about a dozen fighter aircraft will soon be based here. Their targets: Increasing Chinese presence in the area.
In the years to come India will have to employ a multi-pronged strategy to counter China's increasing assertiveness in India's own backyard. And the Andaman Nicobar Command - India's first operational tri-services command - will play a pivotal role in doing that. The command, however, needs lot of teeth and capability.
For video: Countering China via the Andamans