ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Disaster as a Catalyst for Military Expansionism

The Case of the Nicobar Islands

The earthquake that triggered the south and south-east Asian tsunami of 26 December 2004 also caused a significant and permanent shift in the lay of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The northern Andaman Islands saw a lift of up to five feet while the Nicobars in the south subsided in places by nearly 15 feet. This resulted in much larger damage caused by the tsunami to life and property in the Nicobar Islands even though the area and population here is much less than that in the Andamans. Huge changes were also effected to the topography of the islands and the coastal and marine ecosystems. The subsequent years have seen increasing defence-related interest in the Nicobar groups and a number of projects have been commissioned, initiated or proposed. The hypothesis presented here is that there is a relationship between the damage and destruction caused, the notion of a wasted and washed-out land and seascape and the heightened defence presence and activity here.

The paper was first presented at the “Manifestations of History in the Andaman Islands” conference held in June 2013 at the Institute for Ethnologie, Munich University, Germany. I would like to thank Frank Heidemann, Philipp Zehmisch, Manish Chandi, Ramanujam Venkat and Nimesh Ved for their comments and inputs.

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