The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Military sets sights on tsunami-proof bases

Port Blair, Jan. 8: After getting emergency relief work off the ground in Andaman and Nicobar, the military has begun to plan ahead to reconstruct its tsunami-destroyed facilities and create new ones.

A six-member team from the three components of the armed forces is here, visiting all affected areas with the objective of rebuilding the bases in a manner that can stand up to tsunamis.

'We will be looking at Japanese technology because they are used to tsunamis and their installations are strong enough to withstand tsunamis, which can also be triggered by a small earthquake (6.6 on the Richter scale) in the ocean bed. Our reconstruction work will be stronger than before,' Commodore V.K. Bhansali, part of the elite team, said.

If the first part of the post-tsunami work by the integrated command of the three armed forces was Operation Madad (help), the next will be Operation Necessity.

Several of the southern group of islands were inundated by the tsunami, which battered strategic defence installations, almost wiping out the air base on Car Nicobar.

The necessity arises also because of the growing strength of the Chinese naval fleet in the region and a modern air base set up by them on the Coco Islands, territory under Myanmar's control to the north of the Andamans. 'Although Coco Islands are Myanmarese territory, the Chinese presence there cannot be denied. Moreover, their naval fleet is increasing every day. Whoever controls the oceans will rule and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is the first line of defence for our country,' Air Commodore K.K. Vijay Kumar, in charge of the fleet in the islands, said.

The armed forces plan to set up new bases in Port Blair and Diglipur, both in the northern part of the islands, to thwart possible military incursions and conduct major defence reconstruction work.

'One must understand that the nearest land of the country from where help can arrive in a crisis is either Calcutta, Visakhapatnam or Chennai, which are all at an average 1,250 km away. So the islands must have stronger capabilities to tackle any eventuality,' Kumar added.

To start with, at the air base in Diglipur, the length of the runaway will be increased to 6,000 feet from 3,500. Two new defence installations are likely to come up at Pahargaon and Calicut near Port Blair.

'We have chosen about 20 acres of land in Pahargaon and 45 acres in Calicut. Once the land is ready, the armed forces will be in a better situation to deal with any eventuality, be it war with the enemy or the present war we are waging against nature,' Kumar said.

Plans are also afoot to build a strategic 'operation readiness platform' in Port Blair, where a pilot will take only three minutes to get on the aircraft and be airborne once the bell rings. 'The alertness shown by our navy, army and air force has been exemplary and it is time to improve our capabilities further,' said Wing Commander S.. Mukherjee.

About 3,000 feet of the 9,000-ft runaway on Car Nicobar island has been destroyed by the tsunami.

Several islands in the extreme south, including Chowra, Trinkat, Pillowmillow, Kondul, Bompoka, Tillanchang and Little Nicobar, have been completely evacuated. In this situation, opening new bases in the north, towards Coco Islands, and strengthening the old ones with new technology is the only option left, feel experts.

Land is being acquired on the west coast of Car Nicobar and a complete overhauling will be undertaken in Campbell Bay to strengthen the forward operating posts (military supplies depot) on the only inhabited island in the south.

'In terms of strategic defence installations, the Car Nicobar air base assumes great significance. So does the forward operating base in Campbell Bay, which has been badly affected. We will rebuild them shortly,' Kumar said.

For possible box Planned expansions Diglipur air base runaway from 3,500 to 6,000 ftCar Nicobar air base on higher west coast landProtect Campbell Bay base with Japanese technology

New projectsCalicut base on 45 acres Pahargaon base on 20 acres Operation readiness platform in naval air base, INS Utkrosh Listening posts with hi-tech surveillance system Reconstruct Ross Island, adjacent to Port Blair, which has guns to thwart naval attacks

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