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Maninder asked: Has the joint command at the ANC been a success or a failure? What is the way ahead?

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  • Sarabjeet Singh Parmar replies: The raison d'etre for setting up of a joint command in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands has been in existence since the 1970s. The issue was expedited in the aftermath of the Kargil conflict. Based on the Kargil Review Committee and on recommendations of the Group of Ministers, the joint command came into existence on October 8, 2001, with elements of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard operating under one unified command. The main duties entrusted to the command were broadly:

    • Defence of the territorial integrity, waters and airspace of the islands.
    • Ensuring that eastern approaches to the Indian Ocean remain free from threats for unhindered passage of shipping.
    • Monitoring of SLOCs in the designated Area of Responsibility (AOR).
    • Exercising surveillance over EEZ.
    • Establishment of an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) for air defence and air space control.
    • Undertaking joint planning for contingencies and infrastructure planning.

    The Andaman & Nicobar Command (ANC) was initially established as an ‘experimental’ command. One aim was to observe if other such ‘theatre commands’ could be established, based on the functional success of the ANC. The ANC, given the existent assets and infrastructure that were placed under the joint command, by and large has met all its main duties described above with relative success. Any further increase is considered not feasible given the constraints of available land and associated issues, like ecological aspects, etc.

    Although the issue of more theatre commands is an ongoing debate, the ANC could be considered a success as ‘jointness’ was inherent due to the small size of forces positioned there, distance from mainland India and geography (proximity of land, sea and air), which brought about more interaction at the functional level.