The Indian Navy has commissioned a new naval airbase in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, TimesNow, an Indian website, reported on Friday. It will be the third on the strategically located islands after one at Port Blair, the capital of the union territory on South Andaman, and in Campbell Bay on the Nicobars.

The new base is located on the northernmost tip of the island chain and, according to Indian Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba, “the close proximity of Coco Islands, Myanmar and the wide expanse of the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone make the base a very vital asset.”

According to TimesNow, the establishment of the base “can be viewed on the backdrop of an increasing Chinese footprint in the Indian Ocean region.”

Sputnik, a Russian website, described it on Thursday as “a strategic move to enhance the surveillance capabilities against Chinese warships and submarines entering the Indian Ocean region through the nearby Malacca Strait.”

The naval airbase will initially be used to operate short-range maritime reconnaissance planes and helicopters and will be able to host even larger aircraft once the runway is extended to 3,000 meters.

In recent years, India has developed Port Blair as the base for amphibious platforms, naval offshore patrol vessels and fast attack craft.

One of the primary functions of the base in Campbell Bay in the south is to provide information based on “airborne maritime surveillance,” Sputnik quoted Admiral Nirmal Verma, India’s former chief of naval staff, as saying.