The Strategic Significance of Lakshadweep Islands for India

COLOMBO: Some latest developments pertaining to Lakshadweep, an archipelago of 36 tiny islands off the coast of the South Indian state of Kerala, have thrown mild on the strategic significance of the islands, situated 496 km from the mainland.

For the reason that starting of 2021, extraordinary (and hurried) steps have been taken by New Delhi (which straight guidelines the “Union Territory” by way of an Administrator) to develop the archipelago as an equal of the Indian Ocean vacationer paradise, the Maldives.

Nevertheless, the important thing elements of the “development-oriented” drive appeared to the locals to be steps to impose New Delhi’s political, cultural, authorized, financial, and safety pursuits on the islands’ predominantly Muslim inhabitants. Steps had been taken with none native consultations, partly as a result of the Lakshadweep has no elected our bodies aside from village panchayats.

The native inhabitants of 60,000 was incensed. Their apprehensions discovered resonance in Kerala, the place the State legislature unanimously handed a decision asking New Delhi to name off the measures introduced and take away the Administrator Praful Khoda Patel, a political confidante of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Disregarding the protests, Patel handed an order in June enabling officers to go to sea with fishermen of their boats “to assemble intelligence”. That is seen as an affront by the fishing neighborhood. There has additionally been a transfer to clear and securitize the coast by forcibly eradicating fishermen’s huts.

Though the safety measures will be justified from one angle, the style of their introduction, the timing of the introduction, and the background political situation have mixed to evoke all spherical opposition, not solely in Lakshadweep, however in Kerala with which the archipelago has umbilical ties.

Administrator Patel, who assumed workplace in December 2020, started introducing new measures deeply disturbing the life, tradition and faith of the Lakshadweep people who find themselves 96% Muslim.

-He banned the slaughter of cows and the consumption of beef and made these prison acts.

-He relaxed the sale of liquor in a society the place consumption of alcohol is a sin.

-He proposed a land acquisition act underneath which the State might purchase any land it wished in a spot the place land is extraordinarily scarce.

-One other order banned folks with greater than two kids from contesting elections to the native our bodies, the one democratic establishment within the archipelago.

-Patel additionally meant to de-link the Lakshadweep from Kerala and hyperlink it with Mangalore in Karnataka. However the folks of Lakshadweep have kinship, linguistic and cultural ties with Kerala, not Karnataka.

A younger Lakshadweep movie maker Aisha Sultana has been subjected to a police case underneath the Sedition Act for saying in a TV program that Administrator Patel is a “bio-weapon”.

Patel’s portrayal of his steps as rational and progressive had been rebuffed by the individuals who discovered them to be a violation of their basic cultural, financial and political rights. All events together with sections of the Bharatiya Janata Occasion (BJP) in Lakshadweep and Kerala protested, and the Kerala State Meeting unanimously handed a decision looking for Patel’s elimination.

As a result of human and cultural rights points in Lakshadweep got here to occupy the political center-stage, the strategic and safety points bought pushed to the background, although strategic and safety issues had been, in all probability, on the root of New Delhi’s strikes.

The Mumbai terror assaults on November 26, 2008, had uncovered the strategic vulnerability of Lakshadweep.

The Kerala-based historian, Okay.M.Seethi, quotes B.Okay. Loshali, an official of the Indian Coast Guard (ICG), as saying in 2010, that the islands and sandbars of the Lakshadweep present “excellent hideaways for infiltrators and contraband.”

The 25 uninhabited islands in Lakshadweep would “pose an actual hazard to the coast of Kerala,” Loshali had warned.

Thereafter, the ICG put up at Kavaratti within the Lakshadweep was activated. The Indian Navy additionally commissioned a brand new naval base, the INS Dweeprakshak. Following some maritime incidents involving smugglers in 2015, the ICG started to make use of Lakshadweep fishermen as its “eyes and ears”. In 2016, a Naval detachment got here up on Androth Island.

On March 5, 2021, the ICG apprehended a Sri Lankan boat Akarsha Duwa, however its crew had thrown 200 kg of high-grade heroin and 60 kg cannabis into the ocean earlier than seize. However on March 25, a Sri Lankan boat Ravihansi with 300 kg of heroin, 5 AK-47s and 1000 stay rounds was captured within the Lakshadweep sea. On Might 27, 2021, the ICG confiscated 300 kg heroin and 5 AK 47 rifles from a Sri Lankan fishing boat. Nevertheless, the involvement of native Lakshadweep fishermen or others has been marginal until date. That is partly as a result of the ICG has sensitized them to the hazards of collaborating with maritime criminals.

Final weekend, the Tamil Nadu and Kerala police had been warned by Central Indian companies {that a} boat with armed males from Sri Lanka might make a touchdown on their coasts. Following the warning, police started to patrol the coast strains and put up highway barricades to verify automobiles. No particulars of the “group” have been revealed.

On April 7, the US Navy’s seventh Fleet mentioned {that a} guided missile destroyer “USS John Paul Jones” had sailed 130 nautical miles off Lakshadweep with out informing India. The US mentioned that it did so solely to “uphold the rights, freedoms, and lawful makes use of” of the ocean acknowledged in worldwide legislation. The US Navy additional mentioned that it was “difficult India’s extreme maritime claims”.

New Delhi gave the impression to be miffed by this brazen US declare, however was delicate in its response because the US is an ally. Nevertheless the US intrusion demonstrated that Chinese language or Pakistani naval craft might repeat the US train.

The menace to India’s maintain on the Lakshadweep had been there prior to now additionally, writes historian Okay.M.Seethi. In August 1947, on the time of independence, there have been stories a few Pakistan try and annex the Laccadives (as Lakshadweep was then recognized).

A Lahore-based newspaper Friday Occasions carried a narrative on August 9 2019 by Fateh-ul-Mulk Ali Nasir by which the writer mentioned that “Pakistan missed a chance within the Laccadives in 1947.”

Nasir mentioned that had Pakistan captured the Island, it “would have had an oceanic outpost near the equator. The geostrategic and protection advantages would have been immense and Pakistan would even have a tropical island vacation spot that may rival the Maldives as a touristic haven.”

Ali Nasir identified that Lakshadweep was “the one Muslim-majority constituent unit in India”, but it was “ignored by the All India Muslim League and later the newly shaped Authorities of Pakistan.”

Nevertheless, he mentioned that the then Pakistan Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan sought “to make this distant and tropical archipelago a southern extension of Pakistan within the Indian Ocean” and therefore tried “to take management of the islands in August 1947.”

The Pakistan Navy had apparently despatched a frigate from Karachi. Nevertheless, by that point, Sardar Patel, India’s Deputy Prime Minister, had shortly acted swiftly and despatched a group of high Indian officers to hoist the India flag.

Okay.M. Seethi notes that two months after Nasir’s story appeared in Friday Occasions, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned in his radio program Mann Ki Baat on October 27, 2019, that Sardar Patel had “performed a major function” within the integration of Lakshadweep with India.

He mentioned that Pakistan “had solid an eye fixed on Lakshadweep; a ship bearing their flag was despatched there.” As quickly as Patel got here to find out about it, “he wasted no time in initiating stern motion,” Modi mentioned. Sardar Patel had additionally promised all help for the “growth” of Lakshadweep, Modi added.

Trouble in paradise: Indian islands face 'brazen' new laws and Covid crisis  | Global development | The Guardian

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