Lakshadweep : An important archipelago for India’s security

1. Seizure of narcotic drugs worth Rs. 5,000 crores in the last 6 months

Lakshadweep islands are in the Indian Ocean. This group of islands is 200 to 400 kilometers away from the western coast of India. There are 36 islands; however, only 8 of them have human habitation. It is a Union Territory with an area of 32 square kilometers. Even though its size is small, it has lot of importance from the defense perspective. From Lakshadweep, India can use thousands of kilometers of the Arabian Sea. India can do fishing as well as carry out many other activities.

Lakshadweep has population of approximately 65 thousand. 90% of its population is Muslim and the rest are from the other religions. Narcotic drugs consumption is increasing on these group of islands. Some of the youth are leaning towards terrorism. These islands are just 70 to 80 kilometers away from Maldives. The people of Lakshadweep, Male and Maldives have social and cultural relationships with each other.

Lakshadweep islands are blessed with nature’s bounty. Therefore, large number of tourists visit these islands. Miscreants and drug peddling are prevalent at many places on these islands. Some inhabitants indulge in criminal activities.

If Maldives is a great tourist attraction, why can’t Lakshadweep become one ?

In the past 6 months, drugs worth Rs. 5,000 crores have been seized in Lakshadweep. On 7th May 2021, Indian Coast Guard captured a boat with 6 Sri Lankafishermen. The boat was carrying 200 kilograms of heroin and 60 kilograms of hashish. Earlier on 18th March, Indian Coast Guard had captured another boat with 19 sailors and seized drugs worth Rs. 3,000 crores and 5 AK-47 rifles.

Earlier as well, drugs worth Rs. 1,000 crores were siezed. When drugs of such high values are siezed, it only means that smugglers have delivered drugs worth much more than that to their customers.

2. India requires to be vigilant since illegal activities are taking place in Lakshadweep

Lakshadweep has an annual budget of Rs. 1,300 to Rs. 1,400 crores. This only explains the amount of drug peddling taking place here. Illegal activities such as money laundering and hawala transactions are prevalent here. International smugglers distribute drugs from Lakshadweep. Drugs are produced in the South-Eastern countries and transported to MiddleEast and Europe. Their route is via the Lakshadweep archipelago. Middle Eastern and Gulf countries are very rich. These narcotic drugs are brought from the ‘golden triangle’ of their production.

There is lot of trade from Lakshadweep to Middle East and Europe. Some people on these islands work in the international shipping industry. They may be exposed to or come in contact with the miscreants. Earlier this region was dominated by pirates and bandits. Due to global warming, there is continuous rise in the sea level. Due to this, it is said that, these islands may be immersed in water. However, till then India requires to be vigilant.

3. Be aware of the fact that China is just 300 kilometers away from India

There was a huge blast in Maldives on 7th May. Their former President was critically injured in the blast. It is said that ISIS executed this blast. Maldives island has a population of only 2 to 3 lakhs. Large number of their youth are into terrorist activities. Hence, we need to make sure that terrorism does not spread to our islands.

Recently China has taken control of Habantota and another port in Sri Lanka on 99 years lease. Since this comes under control of China, even Sri Lanka citizens cannot enter this area. In this scenario, China is just 300 kilometers away from India.

4. India’s defense would be stronger if efforts are made to strengthen security in the Lakshadweep islands

Indian has deployed some Indian Coast Guard, Indian Navy and CRPF at Lakshadweep. India needs to appoint the Indian Army, as well as Territorial Army (who perform army service while managing their regular jobs / businesses). Therefore, the local people would get an opportunity to serve in the Indian Army.

Only 8 of Lakshadweep islands have human habitation. Who will protect the rest of the islands if they are occupied by miscreants, smugglers and terrorists ? Considering this, retired army personnel can be settled there. Then, India can concertedly watch out for illegal activities in Lakshadweep. Watchtowers, Army airport should also be constructed in Lakshadweep. Hence, an army base can develop in the Arabian Sea, around 300 kilometers away from main land of India. So, the western coast of India can be protected.

There should be co-ordination between the different Indian Security Forces operating here. This is how, they can work better, secure the islands and strengthen India’s defense.

– (Retd.) Brigadier Hemant Mahajan, Pune.