New Focus on Lakshadweep: The Emerald in the Indian Crown


It is a matter of pride for India that the Indian Ocean is the only ocean on the planet Earth that has been named after a country. It is a vast area of 70560000 Square Km and 2.7 billion people live in countries that line the shores of the Indian Ocean. The Indian Ocean is the highway of Sea Lines of Communications (SLOCs), and commercial shipping routes. India has the longest coastline on this ocean. These geographical features provide India with an immense strategic and locational advantage in international trade and resultant geopolitics. China has been making concerted efforts to flag its presence in this area, by developing bases in Pakistan, Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar. The Maldives is soon becoming another vassal state of China.

This region is so sensitive that a simple trip by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi to Lakshadweep on 02 January 2024 and a tweet highlighting its pristine beauty and untapped potential caused a storm of epic proportions in international relations. India’s pivotal location in the Indian Ocean makes it a natural guardian of IOR. Lakshadweep is certainly the Emerald in the Indian Crown.

Geostrategic Importance

As the seat of power shifts from Europe to Asia in the 21st Century, the world is also changing from unipolar to multipolar with friendly alliances challenging the hegemony of superpowers. Admiral Alfred T. Mahan highlighted the strategic importance of the Indian Ocean – “Whoever attains maritime supremacy within the Indian Ocean would be a prominent player on the international scene.” IOR’s rising geopolitical importance and global significance are making it central, in the geopolitical developments of the globe. India of the 21st Century is an economic and military powerhouse of repute. Ably guided by charismatic leadership, India is asserting its rightful place in the new world order. India, by its centrality and strategic location, emerges as the ‘sentinel’ of the Indian Ocean Region and an important ‘pivot’ in the Indo-Pacific region.

Blue Water Diplomacy

International cooperation and joint operations with friendly forces are the keys to blue-water diplomacy and anti-coercion strategy in the multipolar world order. Unlike the South China Sea, the Indo-Pacific Region cannot be controlled by any one country because of its sheer vastness and multitude of stakeholders. India is on course to strengthen its ties with countries in the Indo-Pacific Region like Japan, Australia, South Korea, Vietnam, and other members of the ASEAN to pursue its strategic interests. Regular joint naval exercises are held to achieve synergy in operations.


Multinational alliances have emerged to converge on mutually beneficial agenda. QUAD is one such alliance formed for working as a political, economic and security cooperation to ensure ‘Rule Based Order’ in the ‘Indo-Pacific Region.’ India emerged as a key player in the formation of this new world order based on the principles of mutual trust, respect, and partnership. As aim plus, QUAD is now coming out to check Chinese hegemony and mutually gain immense advantage within this region. The message of the QUAD to the world is clear- Stop coercion on weaker nations and accept international law and norms for free, open, and inclusive usage of the Indo-Pacific region. Though not clearly stated, the aim is to stand united against China’s hegemony. It certainly positions India in a pivotal role in Asia and enhances the image of India in the new world order.


Premium Location. Lakshadweep is a picturesque archipelago of 36 islands with rich biodiversity. It is blessed with hue of natural opulence and surrounded by turquoise water bodies. Only 10 Islands are inhabited with a population of about 72000. The islands have a total land area of just 32 sq km but confer upon India, a 400,000-sq km ‘Exclusive Economic Zone’ (EEZ). The distance from Kochi, Kerala to Lakshadweep is 400 km. The northernmost island of Maldives Island is just 125 km from Minicoy. Lakshadweep stands out as the ‘Sword Arm of India’ projecting into the Indian Ocean, defending the Indian interests and guardian of the sea trade, specifically, SLOCs that pass through ‘Nine Degree Channel’ between Kavaratti and Minicoy of Lakshadweep Archipelago. Lakshadweep has assumed strategic importance in recent years with increasing presence of China in Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan.

Building Naval Bases. The Indian defence establishment in Lakshadweep has been enhanced over the years. In 2010, India commissioned first coast guard stations in Kavaratti and Minicoy islands, thus boosting the presence of the Indian Coast Guard. In 2012, the first naval base-INS Dweeprakshak, was commissioned in Kavaratti and another coast guard station was commissioned in Androth. INS Jatayu with airstrip and jetty has been commissioned at Minicoy in March 2024. The strategic importance of INS Jatayu is to neutralise threats of belligerent vessels threatening Indian assets and monitoring of international trade route between 11 Degree and 8 Degree channels. INS Jatayu will also keep a check on Somali Sea pirates. Narcotics trade and illegal arms trafficking will reduce. It will significantly reduce the response time of the Indian Navy task force, while reacting to any SOS from a merchant vessel. The runaway of 1300 meters length in Agatti is being increased to 3000 meters for dual use. It is the beginning of a detailed expansion plan of India’s surveillance and security posture in the Indian Ocean Region.

Increasing Footprints in Indian Ocean

India is also progressively increasing its footprints in the blue waters of the Indian Ocean and Indo-Pacific region, with cooperation of friendly nations. India has always been a proponent of International ‘Rule Based Order’ and maintaining the sovereignty of all nation-states. Towards that end, as local guardian, it is also committed to ensuring that SLOCs passing through the Indian Ocean are always secure. It is also committed to stopping all sea piracy, illegal trade and drug pedaling in this region. Some of the key issues for the performance of this role are flagged below.

  • ANC Tri-Services Command. India has positioned its first tri-services command at Port Blair, Andaman & Nicobar Island. The primary aim was to guard its strategic interests within the Straits of Malacca but equally important was to put a command, control, and communication structure at the islands, with reasonable logistics facilities. This tri-services command will act as a fulcrum for Indian Navy operations and also for friendly naval forces, within the Indo-pacific region. After the establishment of a Tri-Services Command, there is also a plan to build another Naval Base at Great Nicobar to provide support services for joint training and logistics for joint operations of extra troops, warships, aircrafts, and drones from friendly foreign countries.
  • Developing Island Territories. Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the East and Lakshadweep Islands in the West are two groups of Islands, Projecting Indian power in the Indian Ocean Region. They not only extend our EEZ for gainful harvesting but are also strategically located to dominate the 90% of the sea traffic passing through the Indian Ocean. The current Lakshadweep-Maldives row is a spark that has propelled us to take resolute steps towards developing our island assets and bolster maritime muscles. If the need arises, military bases developed in these Islands can also be used as an ‘unsinkable aircraft carriers’ away from the coastline of India.
  • Port Access Agreements. India has negotiated agreements with several littoral nation-states within the IOR to get military access to their bases. Such agreements include access to Indonesia’s strategically-located deep-sea Sabang port the U.S. base at Diego Garcia and the French base on Reunion Island. There is also an agreement between India and Japan to provide India access to naval facilities at Djibouti.
  • Bases Beyond Frontiers. Strategically located islands within the Indian Ocean, suitably located near strategic chokepoints and trading routes are being developed as offshore bases. Given the current geopolitical competition, these bases can provide surveillance, logistics and communications. Few of the noteworthy acquisitions and developments are listed below-
    • Alagela Island. A small and remote Mauritian island called Alagela, is being developed as an offshore base by India and Mauritius jointly. It has an airstrip, jetty, communication hub and a logistics base.
    • Madagascar. The Indian government has set up listening posts and established Naval surveillance radar in Madagascar.
    • Assumption Island. In recent years, India has also started building a naval and air facility on a remote island in Seychelles called Assumption Island.
    • Mattala Airport. India has taken the 2,000-acre Mattala airport on lease, in Southern Sri Lanka. It will be run as joint venture with Russia. This Mattala airport is only at 20 km aerial distance from Hambantota, a Chinese port. This was done in a bid to limit China’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean.
    • Port Of Duqm. In March 2024, Govt of Oman has given an exclusive zone to India at the ‘Port of Duqm’, a strategic port in the Indian Ocean. This will enhance India’s surveillance and domination in the Western and Southern Indian Ocean region.
    • Cocos Island. Cocos Islands of Australia are located midway between Sri Lanka and Australia in the Indian Ocean. Agreements and understanding with Australia have been reached to allow the use of Cocos Islands for joint naval surveillance of sea routes. It can monitor all SLOCs from Indian Ocean to Pacific Region.

Enhanced Role. These islands are not merely to be defended but to be developed as strategic strongpoints. To achieve immense dominance over this region, India has to upgrade its military involvement in this region. Lakshadweep bases will be a force multiplier in the western and southern maritime frontiers of the Nation and will warn against any unholy alliance of Maldives, China, and Pakistan. India can transform this undiscovered asset into a shining beacon of prosperity and security in the Indian Ocean Region. Lakshadweep can serve India as a Strategic Sentinel, Maritime Guardian and certainly as a diplomatic asset in the Indian Ocean.

Way Ahead

Dominance in the Indo-Pacific Region in general and Indian Ocean Region in particular, by extending its arms up to island territories, increasing the footprints to neighborhood and by having strategically placed bases in friendly countries are important moves undertaken by our security establishment. Groupings like QUAD will also pave the way for India to acquire an enhanced power status within the coming years. The Indian Ocean is correctly described as a part of India’s ‘extended neighborhood’ and India’s diplomatic; security and economic interests must be safeguarded in this region.

To achieve immense dominance over this region, India has to upgrade its military might in this region. There is potential for India to develop dual-use facilities in Lakshadweep for military and civilian purposes. A well-orchestrated use of these islands, to further the Nation’s foreign and strategic policy, is the present requirement of India.


India needs to strengthen its naval capabilities before some rival footprints appear in the Indian Ocean, especially China. In the 21st Century, Indian Navy is emerging as a reputable, organized and combat-worthy force. It has shown an exceedingly high operational tempo and emerged as a multi-dimensional networked force, that is able to combat any challenge within the maritime domain. Secure and stable Island territories would be the launch pad for India to rediscover its great maritime geopolitical influence in this region. A thoughtful and comprehensive   strategy to build dual use facilities at picturesque archipelago of Lakshadweep would be the key to unlocking the dominance of the Indian Ocean Region. The Indian Ocean is critical for India’s strategic interests and India under the present leadership, is keenly working towards making it ‘INDIA’S OCEAN.’


Maj Gen C P Singh (Retd), is a scholar soldier accredited with MA, MSc, LLB, MBA, M Phil (Def Mgt) and M Phil (International Strategic Affairs). Widely travelled in India and abroad, the General Officer is an avid reader and prolific writer. Post retirement, he is a Social Activist, Career Consultant, and a Motivational Speaker of repute.


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