“There is no agreement between Mauritius and India for the creation of a military base in Agalega” Ken Arian told AFP. The communications adviser to Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth was referencing a previous report by Al Jazeera which pointed to “satellite imagery, financial data and on-the-ground evidence obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit” as potential evidence for a military base being built on the Mauritian island. The government official explained that the jetty and air strip, two infrastructure projects agreed on back in 2015, would not have any military purpose.
The original airstrip on the island was around 800 meters in length; just enough for coast guard propeller aircraft to operate. After ongoing construction is completed, however, the airstrip will be able to handle just about any aircraft imaginable. Why would an island with 300 inhabitants need such facilities?
Abhishek Mishra from the New-Dehli based ORF think tank gave the following insight to Al Jazeera:
“It’s an intelligence facility for India to stage air and naval presence in order to increase surveillance in the wider southwest Indian Ocean and Mozambique channel.” […] Based on my personal information, my conversations with all these people in my circle, the base will be used for the berthing of our ships and the runway will be mostly used for our P-8I aircraft.”
Considering China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean region, especially through its military base in Djibouti, it is clear why India would be interested in acquiring a base on Agalega.
The idea of establishing a new military base on Mauritian territory remains controversial. The former British colony has long fought the UK in local and international courts for control over Chagos Archipelago which both states claim to own. The UN has also supported the Mauritian claim in court. However, the British remain in control and the largest island on the archipelago has been leased to the US since the 1960s and continues to house US military installations. Appeals by Mauritius for American support, citing America’s commitment to rule of law, have fallen on deaf ears; offers to provide a long-term lease on the territory to the US changed nothing.
Header: File photo Maritime Air Squadron, 2018, via Mauritian government