India’s military priorities are highlighted by its defense budget: the army funded at 55 percent, the air force at 23 percent, and the navy at a meager 15 percent. Since independence, troubles along India’s continental borders, including wars with China and Pakistan, have kept the country’s defense focused on its northern frontiers. A quiet maritime environment and a strong navy inherited from the British have allowed India to establish a prominent role in the Indian Ocean region without much effort.

Darshana M. Baruah
Darshana M. Baruah is a nonresident scholar with the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Her primary research focuses on maritime security in Asia and the role of the Indian Navy in a new security architecture.
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In particular, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands have been neglected in Delhi’s strategic and political priorities, especially given their distance (approximately 1200 kilometers from the mainland). Priorities within the navy focused on strengthening India’s immediate coastline while the islands’ potential was something to be taken advantage of later. However, recent developments in maritime Asia have forced Delhi to re-examine its naval priorities, and the current government has started showing more enthusiasm for maritime security.

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This article was originally published in War on the Rocks.