Indian Ocean Power Competition

Strengthening Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) for India’s Maritime Security


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Andaman and Nicobar Command and framwework

Mains level: India's maritime security and the strategic potential of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Central Idea

  • China’s aggressive construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea highlights the strategic significance of India’s Andaman and Nicobar (A&N) Islands. These islands provide India with a unique opportunity to project power, safeguard its interests, and exert influence in the region. However, there is an urgent need to reinforce the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) and recognize its potential in the evolving Indo-Pacific security landscape.

All you need to about Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC)

  • The Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) is a unified military command of the Indian Armed Forces. It brings together the three branches of the Indian Armed Forces, the Army, Navy, and Air Force along with the Coast Guard, under the command of a designated Commander-in-Chief, Andaman and Nicobar (CINCAN).
  • It was established on October 1, 2001, and is responsible for the defense and security of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which are strategically located in the Bay of Bengal.
  • The ANC plays a significant role in regional security in the Indo-Pacific and contributes to joint military exercises and collaborations with partner countries.
  • It serves as a model for jointness and integration in India’s military structure, promoting coordination, interoperability, and efficiency in operations.

China’s rapid construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea and concerns for India

  • Security Threat: China’s militarization of these islands, including the deployment of military infrastructure and guided-missile batteries, poses a direct security threat to India. It enables China to extend its defensive perimeter and project power in the region, potentially affecting India’s strategic interests.
  • Maritime Domain Awareness: China’s island-building campaign allows it to enhance its maritime domain awareness by monitoring and controlling the sea routes in the South China Sea. This could potentially impact India’s freedom of navigation and its ability to operate in the region.
  • Regional Power Projection: China’s presence in the South China Sea, coupled with its growing military capabilities, challenges the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific region. This has implications for India’s security calculus, as it seeks to maintain a favorable regional environment and protect its interests.
  • Geopolitical Influence: China’s assertive actions in the South China Sea have regional and global geopolitical implications. It allows China to expand its influence in the Indo-Pacific, potentially impacting India’s relationships with other countries in the region.
  • Disputed Territory: China’s island-building activities in the South China Sea involve disputed territorial claims with other countries in the region, including India’s close partner, Vietnam. These disputes raise the risk of potential conflicts and heighten regional tensions

Facts for prelims: Geography of Andaman and Nicobar Islands (ANI)

Aspect Information
Location Located between 6° and 14° North Latitude and 92° and 94° East Longitude, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are a union territory in India.
Two groups of Islands The islands north of 10° north latitude are known as Andaman, while the islands south of 10° north latitude are called Nicobar.
The Andamans The Andamans consist of more than 300 islands, with North, Middle, and South Andaman, collectively known as Great Andaman, being the main islands.
The 10-degree channel The 10-degree channel, approximately 145 km long, separates Little Andaman in the south from the Nicobar Islands.
The Nicobars The Nicobars consist of 19 islands, including Car Nicobar in the north and Great Nicobar in the south. The northwestern tip of Sumatra, Indonesia, is located about 90 miles southwest of Great Nicobar.
Formation Both the Andaman and Nicobar groups are formed by above-sea extensions of submarine ridges of mountains and are part of a great island arc. The highest peaks include Saddle Peak on North Andaman, Mount Thullier on Great Nicobar, and Mount Harriet on South Andaman.
Andaman Terrain The terrain of the Andamans is rough, with hills and narrow longitudinal valleys, formed of sandstone, limestone, and shale of Cenozoic age. Flat land is limited to a few valleys.
Nicobar Terrain The terrain of the Nicobar islands is diverse, ranging from flat coral-covered surfaces with offshore coral formations on islands like Car Nicobar to hilly regions with fast-flowing streams on islands like Great Nicobar.
Fresh Water Great Nicobar is the only island in the territory with a significant amount of fresh surface water.
Climate The climate of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is tropical but moderated by the sea.

The Importance of Strengthening ANC

  • Comprehensive Maritime Domain Awareness: The ANC must have enhanced capabilities to monitor and defend India’s territorial waters, airspace, and exclusive economic zone. It should focus on advanced surveillance systems and establish an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the islands.
  • Defense against Military Intrusions: The ANC needs increased force levels and firepower to deter potential military incursions and protect the archipelago from hostile elements.
  • Tracking and Interdicting Hostile Forces: Strengthening the ANC’s capabilities to track and neutralize hostile ships and submarines is essential for maintaining maritime security.
  • Rapid Reaction Force: The command should be equipped to deploy a rapid reaction force promptly through airlift or sealift, ensuring swift response to emerging threats

Quad and Malabar exercises to balance China’s growing influence in the region

  • Quad Coordination: The Quad, comprising India, the US, Japan, and Australia, should take decisive steps to counter China’s aggression. Establishing a Quad secretariat in Port Blair could serve as a hub for naval coordination and cooperation.
  • Multinational Operations: The Quad navies, with their growing interoperability, should expand their joint operations beyond exercises. Engaging in non-traditional activities such as disaster relief, humanitarian assistance, and maritime security operations would reinforce regional stability and dissuade potential hegemons.


  • To maximize the strategic potential of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and ensure a robust presence in the Bay of Bengal, it is imperative to strengthen and retain the ANC as an independent joint command. By bolstering its capabilities and leveraging partnerships like the Quad, India can secure its maritime interests and actively contribute to a stable Indo-Pacific region. The ANC has the potential to be a vital asset in the ongoing Indo-Pacific “Great Game.

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Must read:

India’s compulsion to develop The Andaman and Nicobar Islands (ANI)


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