Focus on energy security in Andaman
With oil reserves in the Bay of Bengal a near certainty after huge gas finds off the Myanmarese coast, energy security has assumed a whole new dimension in India's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) monitored from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Oil exploration is being pursued vigourously in the Andaman Sea where two energy blocks have been allocated to the Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC).
The Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) - the only tri-services formation of the armed forces - is closely monitoring the exploration of hydrocarbons in India's EEZ falling under its area of operations, which roughly measures six lakh square km.
Rear Admiral PK Nair, chief of staff, Andaman and Nicobar Command, told HT that energy security had surfaced as a key focus of the command in the emerging scenario. Oil exploration is being carried out by foreign vessels hired by the ONGC.
The Navy's Flag Officer Defence Advisory Group (FODAG) is coordinating the exploration activities with the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas with the naval headquarters issuing security clearances for vessels operating in the energy blocks.
Ahead of defence minister AK Antony's two-day visit to the ANC, its commander-in-chief Air Marshal PP Raj Kumar said the Andaman and Nicobar region would be centre of economic activity in the times to come.
He said, "Once we hit gas here, the whole scenario will change. We are talking about oil pipelines, more ships, heightened commercial activity…Andamans will become India's focus."
The Command has already begun laying the groundwork for the anticipated boom. For starters, more airstrips are being laid and construction of jetties is also in full swing.
There's talk of concentrating more sea and air assets, including unmanned aerial vehicles, in the region keeping security concerns in mind. One of the main responsibilities of the command is to ensure unhindered passage of Indian ships and those belonging to friendly countries.