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Sanchit Matta asked: What is the geo-strategic potential of the Great Channel? How can it curtail the benefits of the Malacca Strait?

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  • Abhay Kumar Singh replies: The Great Channel in the Indian Ocean separates Great Nicobar Island of India and Aceh Province of Indonesia. The Great Channel is located at six degrees north of equator and is popularly referred to as the ‘Six Degree Channel’. The width of the Great Channel is 163 Km (88 nautical miles) between Indira Point in Great Nicobar and Rondo Island of Indonesia’s Aceh Province. A deep and clear channel, it is suitable for navigation by large merchant vessels.

    The Great Channel is located at the western edge of the Malacca Strait. Three major sea routes of the Indian Ocean originating from or destined to the Cape of Good Hope, the Gulf of Aden and the Straits of Hormuz converge in the Great Channel. Due to convergence of sea routes, shipping density in the Great Channel remains high which enhances its potential vulnerability for disruption.

    The strategic significance of Malacca Strait lies in providing shortest maritime connectivity between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. While there exist other connectivity channels viz. Sunda, Lombok and Ombai-Wetar straits, these routes have significant time and cost implications due to longer distances of voyage. As a major feeder and outlet of the Malacca Strait, the Great Channel or Six Degree Channel is crucial for the usage of Malacca Strait by maritime shipping. Any disruption in the Great Channel implies potential closure of the Malacca Strait for maritime trade. These attributes make the Great Channel a choke point of strategic significance.

    The threat of piracy in the Great Channel remains a serious concern. Maritime cooperation between India and Indonesia aims to ensure security of sea lanes in the Great Channel with coordinated action against piracy and other maritime crime.

    Posted on December 04, 2018