Maritime economy: Time to look towards Andamans
In his visit to the island nations -- Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka – in mid-March, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had emphasized the need of bringing in a “Blue Revolution” and asserted that the “Indian Ocean Region is at the top” of the Indian Government’s policy priorities.
The “Blue Revolution” as endorsed by Modi, if realized in its full potential, will mark the beginning of India's long-overdue ocean economic growth. With their distinctive maritime geography, Andaman and Nicobar Islands can be the harbinger of India’s burgeoning ocean economy. The Union Territory comprising 572 islands spread over 8,249 sq km with four main islands nearly twice as big as Singapore is a sleeping giant in the Indian Ocean Region. However, in spite of India having the potential to become a leader in the maritime economy, the paradox has been the policy indifference of the consecutive Central Governments towards developing the islands.
However, things seem to be changing under the new leadership both at the Centre and in the Union Territory. Our Cover Story is a reflection of the changing scenario in the isles. With several long-pending projects seeing the light of the day as well as the initiation of various new projects, the region which was once considered an outpost only is slowly making its mark in India’s economic growth story.
India can take cue from island nations like Singapore, the fourth largest finance centre in the world which is home to more than 10,000 multinational companies, to script its own story of development in the Andamans. If the resources are properly harnessed, it would not be too much to say that the Union Territory can become a Singapore-like entity in the Bay of Bengal, playing a pivotal role in India’s South-East policy.
However, it is also to be ensured that development is not done at the cost of the Islands’ fragile ecology. Over 90 per cent of Andaman and Nicobar Islands is notified as reserve forest and only about six per cent land is available for development. This restriction is hampering realization of the region’s economic and strategic potential to its full measure. Here again, India can draw examples from Singapore, a country with a GDP of USD 467.2 billion which has achieved development not at the cost of the environment but with a long-term strategy for sustainable development. Singapore ranks fourth globally in the Environment Performance Index which measures the effectiveness of State policy for environmental sustainability.
The time is ripe and the moment opportune for India to reassess its development strategy for Andaman and Nicobar Islands. And only then India, whose economy at present is projected at USD 2.1 trillion, can fulfill its vision of being a leader in the ocean economy.