Many islands in the Indian Ocean and Pacific were the appendages of the imperialist metropolises in the days of colonial expansion. And Lakshadweep, located on a centuries-old trade route that connected South India to West Asia and Europe, had to curl up with the vestiges of the ‘global dynamics’ of the European colonial powers.
The archipelago comprises 36 islands that cover around 20,000 sq.km of territorial waters and an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of approximately 400,000 sq. km. After Indian Independence, Lakshadweep Island only had a small military detachment. A decade ago, INS Dweeprakhshak was commissioned on 30 April 2012 at the capital of Lakshadweep – Kavaratti, to strengthen the Indian Navy’s presence and help in effective coastal surveillance in the region. Today, as we commemorate the commissioning, let’s try to understand the importance of INS Dweeprakshak for the Nation and the Indian Navy.
With the commissioning of INS Dweeprakshak, the Navy was able to push out its surveillance bubble and expand its reach. This was important to tackle the threat of Somali piracy as also for monitoring the shipping traffic and intelligence gathering in the Arabian Sea.
Figure 1 Vice Admiral KN Sushil inspecting the Guard of Honour Courtesy: Indian Navy
Further, the Indian Navy last year inaugurated Naval Communication Network Satellite Data Centre, a state-of-the-art facility, at the INS Dweeprakshak to provide a tremendous boost to the communication throughput.
Figure 2 Vice Admiral KN Sushil unveiling the commissioning plague. Courtesy: Indian Navy
The volume of narcotics seizures in Indian waters was a big challenge since it had become a conduit for the global narcotics trade. In an interview with the Hindu, an Indian Coast Guard officer said, ‘there has been a spike in heroin seizures in the region in the past few years particularly after restrictions have been imposed on the other means of transportation due to the COVID-19 outbreak. With the Taliban taking over Afghanistan, which accounts for 85% of the global total opium production, the situation will worsen further’. The presence of INS Dweeprakshak would certainly act as a deterrent against such trafficking.
After the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, coastal security received close attention. It was pointed out that terror outfits could pose a security challenge if Lakshadweep was not secured. Intelligence agencies even warned that Pakistan-based terror outfits Lashkar-e-Taiba could utilize uninhabited islands in Lakshadweep as a base to attack mainland India. As Lakshadweep islands are strategically important to India so is INS Dweeprakshak’s presence at Kavaratti. The Naval base is not just a platform for surveillance but also continues to be an important cog in India’s national security.