Importance of Lakshadweep, Strategically and Economically
Lakshadweep is in the news as people are protesting against its new administrator, Praful Khoda Patel, who is brining several changes to improve the infrastructure of islands.
The controversy is over introduction of Goonda Act, ban on beef and allowing sale of alcohol. The logic is being given that as the majority of the population in islands is Muslim, therefore, neither sale of alcohol should be allowed, nor beef should be banned.
Recently, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi while making statement on this issue, said, “Lakshadweep is India’s jewel in the ocean. The ignorant bigots in power are destroying it. I stand with the people of Lakshadweep.”
Congress MP from Kerala, Shashi Tharoor, said, “We are destroying a peaceful part of the country where peace, communal harmony and calm reigned undisturbed. Stop the rot. The Government has to intervene.”
Now the question arises, how is it fair to give communal angle to these changes? How can one ignore the importance of Lakshadweep, economically and strategically?
Is Maldives not a Muslim country and islands like Lakshadweep, where sale of alcohol is not prohibited? Why do Indians spend millions of dollars every year to visit neighbouring countries like Maldives, Sri Lanka and other Islands nations? Is it not because India’s own beautiful islands were almost ignored and not developed as tourist places? The fact is that to attract tourists from every corner of India and also the world, infrastructure development is necessary in Lakshadweep and for the security of tourists, the law and order in islands becomes very vital. The new changes in Lakshadweep would also increase the income of local people and create more jobs than the population.
For many countries in the world tourism is the huge source of their revenue. According to Statista, the direct contribution of travel and tourism to global GDP amounted to just under 2,893 billion U.S. dollars in 2019. In contrast, the total contribution to GDP worldwide in 2019 was just over 9,258 billion U.S. dollars. The report points out that contribution of tourism in world’s GDP in 2006 was $ 5,160.35 billion which has now increased to almost $10,000 billion — Of course, currently tourism sector has been shattered due to Chinese Virus. The growth of Asia in future will only generate more opportunities in tourism industry. And to younger generation, places like Lakshadweep would attract most.
Coming to strategic importance of Lakshadweep, in 21st century, it is being said, “Whoever controls the Indian Ocean, dominates Asia. In the 21st century, the destiny of the world will be decided on its waters”.
Therefore, it becomes vital for India to develop its all islands to maintain the strong presence in sea. Like infrastructure development of villages near LAC and LoC is important to tackle the aggression of both China and Pakistan, it is equally necessary for India to do the same in ocean as trillions of dollars of business only moves from Indian Ocean. Here, it would be worth mentioning that recently, US Navy warship had entered into Indian water near Lakshadweep without informing Indian Navy. And it became a big controversy. On this issue, India in a statement said: “The Government of India’s stated position on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is that the Convention does not authorise other States to carry out in the Exclusive Economic Zone and on the continental shelf, military exercises or manoeuvres, in particular those involving the use of weapons or explosives, without the consent of the coastal state.”
However, here it is worth mentioning that US is now a friendly nation and also an important member of Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), which has come into existence to tackle Chinese hegemony in Indian ocean and it also participates in Naval exercise with Indian Navy. Yet, this activity of US Navy was totally unethical and against India. Though, this shows the strategic importance of Lakshadweep, especially in growing Chinese presence in Indian Ocean.
Having said this, Lakshadweep is economically and strategically important for India and doing unnecessary politics would only harm the country. Not only this, country will also have to rise above appeasement politics. If Muslims are in majority in Kashmir, it doesn’t mean alcohol would be prohibited there. Anyone who does so is the real threat to the nation.
By Ravi Mishra