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Sandeep asked: What is the strategic importance of Lakshadweep?

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  • Abhay Kumar Singh replies: Lakshadweep are the northernmost islands among the Lakshadweep-Maldives-Chagos group. These islands are actually the tops of a vast undersea mountain (Chagos-Laccadive) Range in the Indian Ocean. Lakshadweep is an archipelago of 12 atolls, three reefs and five submerged banks, with a total of about 39 islands and islets. These islands lie 200 to 440 kms off the south west coast of India and are divided into three groups. The North and South group is separated by the 11 Degree North Parallel. The North group consists of few islands like Amindivi Islands and the Southern group known as Laccadive/Cannonore Islands. The third group Minicoy Islands are located in the southern end of the Nine Degree Channel. The land area of Lakshadweep Island is 32 sq. km. and has a population of 64,473 as per the Census 2011.

    Even though the land area is very small, these islands are strategically very important to India for following reasons:

    • The spread of these islands has bestowed upon India 20,000 sq. km. of territorial waters and approximately 400,000 sq. km. of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The lagoons and EEZ around Lakshadweep Islands have significant fishery and mineral resources which are of immense economic importance.  
    • The Nine Degree Channel, located near Lakshadweep Islands, is the most direct route for ships sailing from the Persian Gulf bound for East Asia. Proximity to the Indian western coast as well as to other island nations such as Sri Lanka and Maldives, nearness to busy shipping lanes, and wide geographical spread makes these islands extremely important for ensuring security of sea lanes of communications and also for maritime security of India.

    Please also refer to the following IDSA publication:
    Pushpita Das, “Need to secure the Lakshadweep Islands”, IDSA Comment, December 13, 2010.

    Posted on June 26, 2018