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Why India is set to press the pedal on developing Indonesia’s Sabang port

India's next focus set to be development of Sabang Port

India’s next focus will be development of the strategically located Sabang port in Indonesia. According to reports, Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd (APSEZ), which is keen to take up the project, has approached the Indonesian government for the same.

The Sabang Port, in Aceh on the northern part of Sumatra, is just 700 km away from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

With 70 per cent of India’s trading in value terms being undertaken through maritime routes, India has been steadily strengthening port linkages not only internally but externally as well.

The upgraded and modernised Sabang Port will further boost India’s connectivity and trade with the ASEAN region and Far East. Sabang port will allow India an easy access to the 900 km Malacca Strait, through which about 40 per cent of the world trade is carried out. Further its connectivity with the newly opened Vizhinjam port in Kerala will ease the flow of vessels from Europe and Middle East into the Far East. The Vizhinjam International Seaport in Kerala—India’s first mega transshipment container terminal, also developed by APSEZ was opened earlier this month.

The linkage between the Suez Canal and Malacca Strait would become easier amid the rising importance of the Indian Ocean Region.

On an average more than 50,000 merchant vessels ply through the Malacca Strait every year.

But besides trade, the port would grant the Indian Navy a well-positioned logistics and resupply node to sustain operations in the eastern Indian Ocean and the Malacca Strait, the Diplomat wrote in 2028. It added that Sabang port could also boost the Indian Navy’s ability to respond to humanitarian emergencies, provide disaster relief, and conduct anti-piracy patrols.

An India Narrative report published on April 17, 2023, said that Beijing has vehemently objected to India’s plans to develop the port of Sabang in Indonesia. “It worries that the foothold at Sabang and the strategic position of India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands, where New Delhi is fast-developing military infrastructure, near the strait of Malacca will worsen the situation for China,” the report said.

In September, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Jakarta to be part of the East Asian Summit. “His visit has helped in pushing pending projects,” an insider said.

India has been pushing for a port led development.

With 7,517 km-long coastline and 14,500 km of potentially navigable inland waterways and occupies, the Narendra Modi government’s Sagarmala Programme launched in 2015 is aimed at fostering an integrated port-centric logistics network in the country while developing and connecting major international ports.

Simply speaking, the development of the Sabang port, will give India a better foothold in the Indian Ocean Region and rebalance the power structure in the region.

Also read: PM Modi kicks off maritime summit, outlines investment plan of Rs 23,000 crore to develop deep water ports