A Message To China? After Getting Military Access, India Sends Navy Ship To Strategic Indonesian Port

Indian warship INS Sumitra enters Port of Sabang in Indonesia.

Sending a strong message to China and building on the understanding reached with Indonesia during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the country, India on Wednesday sent a navy ship to the port of Sabang, strategically located at the mouth of the Malacca Strait, Business Standard has reported.

Indonesia, reports say, has granted India military and economic access to the port, which is located not far from the Andaman and Nicobar Island. The island chain is home to India’s only tri-service theatre command. Port Blair, the headquarters of the command, is around 1,000 kilometres from Sabang.

While India is already developing the Andaman and Nicobar Islands as an outpost to keep watch over the Eastern Indian Ocean, access to the port of Sabang will make it easier for the Navy to keep an eye on movements around the Malacca Strait. Around 80 per cent of China’s oil imports pass through the strait. About $3 trillion worth of cargo passes through the strait every year.

“India and Indonesia have started naval drills in 2017, but we can explore more. This will become even better when the Sabang seaport is established with India. Sabang port has a depth of 40 metres which is good even for submarines,” Luhut Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs had said while addressing an event in New Delhi earlier this year.

During Modi’s visit to the country in 2018, the two countries agreed to establish an Indian-Indonesian joint task force to “undertake projects for port-related infrastructure in and around Sabang.”