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India to build a New Airstrip at Lakshadweep's Minicoy Island that will keep China at bay in Indian Ocean

Source : News18

India to build a New Airstrip at Lakshadweep's Minicoy Island that will keep China at bay in Indian Ocean
The project, which involves suggestions from the civil aviation and home ministries, Navy, Air Force and coast guards, is likely to be completed in the next five years. (Photo: GOI)

The government is planning a 2,500-metre-long airstrip at the Minicoy Island in Lakshadweep, which will allow larger IAF and commercial aircraft to take off. The project holds strategic importance as it will keep an eye on India’s international borders, strengthen area domination and tourism.

Minicoy is the closest island to Kochi, which is also one of the biggest bases for the Navy, and is located at a strategic location. Therefore, the airstrip will help India check the water area, which is being used by China as well as Pakistan.

Senior officials aware of the development told News18 that the project has got an in-principle approval and the budget will be finalised soon.

The project, which involves suggestions from the civil aviation and home ministries, Navy, Air Force and coast guards, is likely to be completed in the next five years.

The Lakshadweep airport would be similar to Srinagar’s, which has limited movement of commercial aircraft and is owned by the Indian Air Force.

The coast guard will have a separate hanger, which will be useful for and increase patrolling in the area. Forces can use choppers to intercept suspicious movement in the area. A consultant has also been hired to understand the feasibility of the project.

Sources confirmed that earlier the idea was to have a small air strip, which was turned down as stakeholders wanted it to be operable for all types of aircrafts.

Sources also said that the project was under discussion for the past many years but was expedited by the current Lakshadweep Administrator, Praful Khoda Patel.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR INDIA’S DEFENCE?

Explaining the benefits of having an airport in Minicoy, an official associated with the project told News18, “This route has Nine and Eight Degree Channels, which are the lifelines of shipping between various global locations including Europe. Having an airport at Minicoy island would give an edge to the coast guard, Air Force and other forces to monitor and keep a check on the movement. It is also closest to the Maldives, which is the part of String of Pearls. But this airstrip will dent China’s dream of domination on sea routes with the help of Pakistan, which is continuously involved in the illegal trade of drugs, arms, etc.”

‘String of Pearls’, in geostrategic parlance, refers to the Strait of Malacca, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, the Maldives, the Strait of Hormuz and Somalia. It also includes Bangladesh and Myanmar in Chinese strategy.

According to a report, China is working on a strategy to expand its influence in the Indian Ocean to extract maximum benefit from it and contain Indian hold in the region. China was expected to raise civilian and military infrastructure at chosen points on the islands or ports.

On the other side, the Nine Degree Channel is of 200 degrees separating Kalpeni and Suheli from Minicoy, the passage nearly sees all merchant shipping between Europe, the Middle-East and Western Asia with South-East Asia and the Far-East.

BOOST TOURISM

The new airport will see hassle-free travel by tourists, who, at present, face expensive flight tickets and accommodation to visit the island. The airport will see more flight movement in the area.

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