The network from Chennai to Port Blair could be the first step for India to set up an alternative to China for ASEAN nations.
New Delhi: The launch of the submarine optical fibre from Chennai to Port Blair by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a part of the government’s strategy to make Andaman & Nicobar Islands a key hub of the Indo-Pacific region, in both commercial as well as strategic terms.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently launched and dedicated to the nation, the 2,300 km submarine Optical Fibre Cable (OFC) connecting Andaman & Nicobar to the mainland through video conferencing. At present, this is the only undersea optical fibre cable network owned by the Indian government, though private undersea networks exist in Mumbai and Chennai, sources said.
Sources said this could be the first step for India to set up an alternative to China for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries to gain international connectivity. Currently, China provides a majority of the submarine optical fibre in the region.
The laying of the submarine cable would now enable endless opportunities in the islands, said an official. It will help Andaman & Nicobar in getting cheaper and better connectivity and all the benefits of Digital India, especially in improving online education, tele-medicine, banking system, online trading and in boosting tourism. The government also plans to develop Andaman & Nicobar as a hub of port-led development as it is at a competitive distance from many ports of the world.
This is to be noted that the Indian Ocean has been the centre of India’s trade and strategic prowess for thousands of years and Andaman and Nicobar has been an important centre for India’s economic-strategic cooperation.
In fact, the Prime Minister highlighted the fact that all the islands of India would be playing an important role under India’s new trade strategy for the Indo-Pacific region. Under the Act-East policy, the role of Andaman & Nicobar’s strong relations with East Asian countries and other countries connected to the sea is very high and is going to increase. This is to be noted that an Island Development Agency was formed three years ago to strengthen its role.
The Port Blair airport is being enhanced to handle a capacity of 1,200 passengers. Along with this, the airports are ready for operations in Diglipur, Car Nicobar and Campbell Bay.
The passenger terminal in Swaraj Dweep, Shaheed Dweep and Long Island along with Water Aerodrom Infrastructure like floating jetty will be ready in the coming months. Four ships being built at the Kochi Shipyard will be delivered soon to improve the water connectivity between the islands and the mainland.
The government’s focus is also on promoting Ease of Business in the sea and simplifying maritime logistics. The Prime Minister referred to the speedy construction of the deep draft inner harbour and the proposal to construct Trans-Shipment Port in Great Nicobar at an estimated cost of about Rs 10,000 crore, which he said, would enable big ships to anchor and would increase India’s share in maritime trade, along with new employment opportunities.
The government is hopeful that the blue economy like fisheries, aquaculture and sea-weed farming in the island will accelerate in commensurate with the modern infrastructure being developed in Andaman and Nicobar.