Coco Island: Geography, History and Strategic Significance here
Coco Islands: Why in the News?
The Chinese electronic intelligence installation that is widely in news recently is the maritime reconnaissance and electronic intelligence station on Great Coco Island. The island group is located in the Bay of Bengal almost 300 kilometres south of the Burmese mainland.
These islands belong to Myanmar but have been taken on lease by the Chinese Government since long.
Chinese availability on Coco Islands:
- The Chinese Army is also building a base on Coco Island in the Alexandra Channel. The water body lies between the Indian Ocean and the Andaman Sea north of India's Andaman Islands.
- The two islands of the Coco group have been leased to China since 1994.
- These are located at a crucial point in traffic routes between the Bay of Bengal and the Strait of Malacca.
- The Coco Islands can be used to monitor Indian naval and missile launch facilities in Andaman and Nicobar Islands to the south and movements of the Indian Navy and other navies throughout the eastern Indian Ocean.
- The construction of the Great Coco Island station started in the late 1992 by placing, 45-50 m antenna tower, radar sites and other electronic facilities. These formed a comprehensive SIGINT collection facility.
- In mid-1993, 70 Chinese naval personnel began operation of the new radar equipment. It was by the summer of 1994, the PLA, the radar and SIGINT facilities were complete and ready for use.
Coco Island: Geography
The Coco Islands are a part of Yangon region of Myanmar. The islands are located 414 km south of Yangon. The islands are a group of 5 islands- 4 on Great Coco Reef and another solitary island of Little Coco Reef.
Coco islands have 4 such islands and one solitary island on little Coco Reef.
Coco Island: History
- The islands were named by Pourtugese sailors. The islands had a lot of coconuts growing which is why these were called Coco islands.
- The East India Company had occupied the Andaman and Nicobar islands in the 18th century and had built Penal colonies there. The food and essentials were brought there through Coco islands.
- The Jadwet family was given the Coco islands on lease. They were a respectable family of Burma. Britishers gave the control to Burma due to the remoteness of these islands. In 1937 when Burma was separated from India, the islands were made a self -governing Crown Colony.
- In 1942 Coco Islands were taken over by Japanese and these became an official part of Burma when it received freedom from British in 1948.
- General Ne Win set up a Penal Colony in the islands and it was called the Devil's Islands.
Coco Island: Strategic Significance
China has been working on an expansionist policy since the 1990s. It is supported by Sri Lanka and Myanmar along with Bangladesh in the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal. China wishes its expansion to be both economic and political.
Sanat Kaul has said that India has untapped resources in the name of Andaman and Nicobar islands and due to imposition of sanctions by the West, Myanmar has come up as a support to China.
China took advantage of this and established a strong military presence on Coco Islands. Myanmar lets China access its naval routes and ports and also has a deep water port at Kyaukpyu in the Bay of Bengal. It has installed a 85 metre jetty, naval facilities and Electronic Intelligence systems at Great Coco Islands.
There are a huge number of Chinese military technology and men based on these islands.The presence of the Coco islands is a way for Chinese Blue Water Navy to become a reality. It is a part of China's plan to encircle India through Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean. China also has its oil and energy supplies being shipped through the Strait of Malacca route. India, US, Japan and Australia are all concerned about China's presence everywhere.