Andaman islands got its’ first high-speed data link. Why is developed Andaman and Nicobar islands important to India?

According to official data, Internet with speed of 400 gigabyte (GB) per second will be provided at Port Blair and for other islands it will be 200 GB per second. It would provide fifth-generation (5G) connectivity, the latest in cellular wireless technology, to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Indian Archipelago. With a population of around four hundred thousands and an area roughly 8250 kilometer square, why the government of India invested 1200 br rupees in laying 5G lines in the islands?

To answer this question, lets look at the geographical location of the island chain. Andaman and Nicobar islands of Indian Union comprise of 572 bigh and small islands (of which only 37 are inhabited) is located at 150 km (93 mi) north of Aceh in Indonesia and separated from Thailand and Myanmar and at the juncture of Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. It is situated around 1370 kms (around 150 mi) from the east of Indian subcontinent. It is also connected to Indian Ocean and lies very near to the current busiest trade route through Mallaca Strait.

The Indian Archipelago

China, under President Xi Zingping, had started laying claim on various islands on East and South China Sea which belong to either Japan or other ASEAN countries in South. It has also started constructing multiple artificial island in the busiest sea trade routes in the region thereby jeopardizing the free trade routes through East and South China sea. This hedgemonistic mindset of Chinese Communist Party has made life difficult for smaller countries like Vietnam, Indonasia or South Korea who are entirely dependant on oil coming from Gulf countries through South China Sea.

As if this is not enough, China has upped its’ ante to take over Hong Kong’s soverign rule using its’ ‘one China’ policy. Though the people of Hong Kong are vehimently protesting this move but the fact remains that Britain gave up its’ rule in Hong Kong to China in the late 90s where there was an agreement that it would be able to maintain its’ own governance for couple of decade. Naturally China does not want to lengthen or delay upon the agreed conditions and in all probability Hong Kong will be annexed by China by 2021.

Understanding the Chinese design, the companies which has invested in Hong Kong are looking for a suitable place to move their business where there will be little threat from any agressive mentalities. According to experts, India’s move will open up a host of opportunities for India in the ASEAN region, where China provides a majority of the submarine optical fibre.

Shyamal Ghosh, former secretary, DoT said that “these (ASEAN) countries are also looking for an alternative, as they don’t want to put all their eggs in the same basket. In Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the network will provide a stable connection as the previously used satellite was more dependent on the availability of bandwidth, especially because the islands emerge as an important strategic point in the Indian Ocean region (IOR)”.

According to Dr.RK Bhatnagar, a former technological adviser to DoT, “the submarine network in the second phase of connections could easily extend to countries such as Singapore and Thailand. India is already having an offer of $1 billion line of credit for digital connectivity with ASEAN countries. Countries such as Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam can take advantage to have their OFC (optical fiber cable) digital highways connecting to the north-eastern states through a protected ring architecture and extension by 700 kilometres (km). Myanmar and other ASEAN countries can enjoy better international bandwidth option via the north-eastern states”.

“The cable system with the incremental submarine of 1,050 km can take connectivity to the nearest port of Thailand. Greater Nicobar, the last Indian island, is less than 175 km from Rando Island in Sumatra, Indonesia. India stands to gain politically if 1,925 km of incremental submarine cable can connect three ASEAN countries such as Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia. This distance is even less than 2,300 km from Chennai to Andaman and Nicobar islands. The project can be funded through the ASEAN line of credit,” he added.

With this 5G OFC line in the Indian Archipelago, India also signaled the world that it is keen on setting up an alternative of Hong Kong in the Indian Ocean region (IOR) where their would be hassle free business and trade as there is no geographical bottlenecks whatsoever (unlike the narrow Malacca Straits) and the world can freely do business at a place which is not only near to the subcontinent but also among close to the ASEAN countries as well.

Andaman and Nicobar islands roughtly equals to Hong Kong in area (Hong Kong being slightly bigger) and most part uninhabited. It could well be both a tourist as well as business destination for countries which is seeking some alternative destination to do business with well connected digital and sea routes. India have the answer.

To achieve the intent, the Indian government has to start building proper infrastructure facilities which is non-existing today. Road connectivity, rail routes, ports and airports to name a few. Land is a rare commodity and if India has some, it would have to use it for betterment.

However, this should not come at a cost of ruining the ecological balance. The forest land of the islands also house some oldest human origins and those should never be touched. If India can balance between the nature and infrastructural development, the Andaman and Nicobar would present India with a huge opportunity to open business avenues to global foreign investment.

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