Agaléga Airstrip and Port Fuels Suspicions of Undeclared Indian Military Outpost

Mauritius Denies Military Base on Agaléga, But India's Presence Raises Suspicions.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

Agaléga is a tiny island in Mauritius’ Outer Islands, spread over the western Indian Ocean. India has an interesting agreement with Mauritius for these islands.

While Mauritius rules the island, an agreement made in 2009 allows India to establish a presence in the north. India has developed some major military installations there, including an airfield and radars for air navigation.

The purpose behind these sites is to provide the Indian military with eyes on the shipping lanes that span the Indian Ocean. Their people can monitor maritime traffic and waterways and even assist India’s military activities and deployments in that region from Agaléga.

To make it all work, India has military and air force personnel stationed continuously on the island to administer and maintain the infrastructure, as per their agreement with Mauritius. It is viewed as India’s response to China’s expanding military clout in the Indian Ocean, with China developing ports and maritime infrastructure in Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

For Mauritius, allowing India to use Agaléga strengthens their defence and security alliance.

Mauritius’ Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth says that Agaléga is not a military facility, but the international press, notably in India, persists and confirms. According to reports, installations may aid India in its war with China. Who’s telling the truth?

On March 1st, Mauritius’ Prime Minister and his Indian counterpart virtually opened a new airfield and St James dock on Agaléga Island.

During his inauguration speech, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth clarified that “there has never been a project to transform Agaléga into a military base” and that “some individuals in Mauritius and abroad engage in ‘India-bashing’.”

The newly opened facilities include a refurbished 3-kilometre airport that can accommodate larger aircraft and a port that can dock large ships. As a result, Agaléga has been added to the list of Indian Ocean ports that provide vital access to India, which some experts call a “diamond necklace,” as opposed to “pearl necklace” ports that provide access to China.

India already has a naval air station north of Andaman, INS Kohassa, and another near Port Blair, INS Utkrosh, which gives enough depth for the military to watch the eastern Indian Ocean closely. With Mauritius’ marine reinforcement through Agaléga, India can expect appropriate assistance from this “natural partner” to monitor major oceanic routes in the western Indian Ocean, including the Mozambique Channel.

During a news briefing on Friday, Pravind Jugnauth reiterated that the infrastructure built and financed by India “belongs to the Mauritian government.” He also stated that there will be no commercial flights to Agaléga for the foreseeable future before mentioning Mauritius’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 2.3 million square kilometres. He explained that the country lacks the necessary equipment, technology, and people resources to oversee it effectively. According to the Prime Minister, Mauritius “needs aid”: “We have agreements with several countries and especially India to help us monitor our territory.”

As stated by Pravind Jugnauth in Parliament last October, India will also be responsible for the maintenance and financing of the installations. Furthermore, it assigns professional experts to assist in their management, with pay paid for by India.

In the past, the head of government has stated in Parliament that Agaléga can host Indian military aircraft and ships, but only with the authorisation of the Prime Minister’s Office. “As is the case for Mauritius and Rodrigues, any request for the use of our port and airport facilities by a foreign civil or military ship or aircraft will be examined and decided by the government. The same principle will apply to any request for Agaléga as soon as the facilities are operational,” he had stated.

The Indian government will shortly open a new naval base in the Lakshadweep islands, located southwest of the country and adjacent to the Maldives. The move to improve intelligence capabilities in the Indian Ocean comes as the Maldives’ new president ejected Indian military personnel stationed there.

INS Jatayu will be India’s second naval outpost in the Lakshadweep archipelago, 250 km from the Maldives, bolstering efforts to combat drug trafficking and piracy.

Previously, almost a hundred Indian soldiers stationed in the Maldives worked alongside the Maldives military on these missions. However, the Maldives’ new president has ordered these Indian forces to leave within a few days.

This outpost would also aid in better monitoring the movement of Chinese ships and submarines in this strategically important section of the Indian Ocean. INS Jatayu is located between the Malacca and Suez Straits, across which all vessels go between Asia, the Gulf, and Europe.

With so much traffic, it is impossible to detect the stealthy Chinese submarines, so India must improve its military listening capabilities in both the Lakshadweep and the Andaman archipelago further east, where the Indian Navy is establishing a naval station on Great Nicobar Island.


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