India seeks to speed up plans in Indian Ocean amid growing Chinese presence in region, say experts. India is looking to accelerate plans in the Indian Ocean amid growing Chinese presence in the region. Indian aims to transform the Andaman and Nicobar Islands into a shipping and tourism hub with connections to Southeast Asia, Malaysian publication The Star reported.

In a recent meeting, Indian and Indonesian officials agreed to "encourage sail tourism, cruise ship visits, and interaction between tour operators" between the two countries to increase connectivity between the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Aceh where India is helping to develop the deep sea port of Sabang.

Officials of both countries agreed to help create opportunities for investors.

Strengthening the link between the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Aceh, 150 km apart, is part of a shared vision for Indo-Pacific maritime cooperation signed between the two countries in 2018, The Star reported.

Rajiv Bhatia, former Indian ambassador and Distinguished Fellow at Gateway House, a think tank, was quoted by The Star as saying, “The broader context (of this cooperation) is closer political and economic ties and closer cooperation, the infrastructure for this should be put in place.”

“India’s approach in the past (towards Andaman and Nicobar Islands) used to be so restrictive, not to do any development of the area and not allow foreign powers. Now there is an evolution in thinking,” Bhatia added.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands have a population of about 400,000 people, including indigenous tribes and the Jarawas who have inhabited the island for years and live off the mainland.