Defence Minister Rajnath Singh Friday visited INS Baaz, the Indian naval air station under the joint services Andaman and Nicobar Command of the Indian Armed Forces, at Campbell Bay in Great Nicobar Island, defence sources here said. He was accompanied by Lieutenant General Ajai Singh AVSM, the commander-in-chief of Andaman and Nicobar Command (CINCAN) and interacted with the troops there.

Singh's visit and his interaction with the troops assume importance in light of the growing influence of China in the Indian Ocean region. INS Baaz overlooks the Strait of Malacca, the sea route through which the majority of Chinese imports pass and is one of the most important shipping routes in the world both from economic and a strategic viewpoints, the sources said.

INS Baaz, which is a full-fledged forward operating base of the Indian Naval Air Arm, also overlooks the Six Degree channel between Great Nicobar and the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Campbell Bay is the country's eye over the Strait of Malacca, which is the shortest shipping channel between Indian and Pacific Oceans and connect major economies like China, Japan, the Middle East and South Korea.

Singh was familiarised with the terrain of the southern group of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. He later visited Indira Point, the southernmost tip of the country. After visiting INS Baaz he also went to the Air Force station at Car Nicobar, the sources said.

He had arrived in Port Blair on Thursday to review the operation preparedness of the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC). In his address to the defence officers and jawans he raised the border stand off with China and lauded the bravery of Indian soldiers from Galwan in Ladakh to Yangtse in Arunachal Pradesh.

During his two day visit, Singh held a high level meeting with Lt Gen Ajai Singh, the 16th Commander-in-Chief Andaman and Nicobar Command (CINCAN) to get a first hand report of the overall operational situation and military surveillance.

He also visited the ANC's Joint Operations Centre (JOC), which is the nerve centre for integrated planning for surveillance, conduct of operations and logistics support.

There are plans to extend the ANC's runways at Car Nicobar, Campbell Bay and Shibpur in North Andaman to strengthen its capabilities to handle any maritime threat, the sources added.

The ANC, established about 21 years ago, is the first tri-service theatre command of the Indian Armed Forces and is based in Port Blair. It is under the CINCAN for building synergy and cohesion between the services while defending national interests in the Andaman and Nicobar region, the defence sources added.