The Quint’s Nishtha Gautam caught up with former Lt Governor of Andaman & Nicobar and Puducherry, Lt Gen (Retd) AK Singh, on the question of whether or not the Andaman & Nicobar islands can act as a deterrent against China, amidst border tensions.
India and China both suffered losses at Galwan Valley, Ladakh, on the night of 15 June, in a clash – India lost about 20 of its men, and China is yet to confirm its casualties.
The two neighbouring countries are currently amidst the disengagement process which began in some standoff points in eastern Ladakh across the Line of Actual Control (LAC), including in Galwan Valley. On Thursday, 16 June, the Ministry of External Affairs said in a rebuttal to reports that New Delhi had ‘ceded territory to China in Ladakh’ post-standoff, that there is no change with respect to India's position on the LAC.
Here are excerpts from the interview with Lt Gen (Retd) AK Singh:
Nishtha Gautam: Can Andaman & Nicobar islands act as a deterrent against aggression from China?
Lt Gen (Retd) AK Singh: The sea has a different dimension. To take a call on activating our maritime dimension, is a great political and strategic decision. There are laws of the sea, which are in existence, there are Sea Commons, which are to be respected, and it’s not easy... we normally, glibly use this term, that we will ‘blockade Malacca Straits’ –– you know, when you blockade a port of any country, it is an act of war...
Nishtha Gautam: Since you have served there (A&N islands) as Lt Governor, who better than you to give us insights into how strategically important the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are to us, in the present scenario.
Lt Gen (Retd) AK Singh: Not many people in our country understand or know about the Andaman & Nicobar islands, except for the tourist portion. When we were conducting the 2014 election, and I was there, the Home Ministry decided to send a CRPF company, although we didn’t want it. It is a very peaceful place. So a signal comes from the headquarters, to the local administration that ‘please (they were coming from Tamil Nadu) reserve two coaches in a train to Port Blair. So I circled it in red and sent it back –– ‘that it’s not trains... you have to come by ship or air’. That is the knowledge (of people about the islands).