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Japan picks Andaman and Nicobar islands for renewable energy push

Indian Coast Guard rescues vessel from waters near the Andaman islands (Photo: ANI)

The Japanese development agency—Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), recently signed an agreement with India to provide Rs 250 crore for a renewable power project in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The project will generate power from renewable energy sources and store it in a battery system. To be completed by February 2024, it will replace the existing diesel-based power production with renewable energy. For India, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands enjoy strategic importance due to their geographical location but have remained untouched over the preservation of tribes and their unique ecology.

The Japanese support in generating power in the Andamans will help India to bring about development of people on the islands as well as improve its military capacity.

In a press statement, Saito Mitsunori, Chief Representative, JICA India Office, said, “Stable and reliable power supply is critical for a better livelihood and promotion of industries in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Being disconnected from the mainland, the group of islands currently rely on isolated generation and distribution systems powered by diesel generation with frequent blackouts".

Namrata Hasija, Research Associate at the Centre for China Analysis and Strategy (CCAS) told India Narrative that the collaboration between Japan and India and "all investment here is due to strategic location and importance to the Indo-Pacific".

She says that India had not foreseen that China’s aggressive South China Sea (SCS) policy might spill over to the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). She points out that Chinese submarines have paid visits to countries in the IOR and that has added to India's worries.

With rapid changes in the geo-political situation globally and re-alignments taking place in the neighbourhood, India is beginning to look afresh at the islands for their developmental and strategic potential, hence the financial support from Japan.

A recent write-up by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) says that the Narendra Modi government is working on a Rs 10,000 crore plan to improve connectivity by developing the Andamans into India’s first maritime hub. Plans also include “land reclamation for ports, harbours, and jetties facilitating luxury tourism in the islands; the inauguration of the Chennai-Andaman and Nicobar undersea internet cable to provide high-speed internet connection to seven remote islands of the ANI chain in 2020; and the announcement to build a transhipment port in the Great Nicobar island in 2020", says ORF.

With Japan sharing India's concerns over a free and open Indo-Pacific (FOIP), the Andaman islands have become the perfect setting for both countries to collaborate in a strategic zone that sits on some of the most important international trading routes, including ones that make China uncomfortable—the Malacca Strait, over concerns that it can be blocked during times of conflict.