Opinions & Features August 05, 2021 at 09:32 am

The unknown story of how India is ‘colonizing’ a Mauritian island for military base

Nii Ntreh August 05, 2021 at 09:32 am

August 05, 2021 at 09:32 am | Opinions & Features

The building of two naval jetties and a huge runway on the isolated Mauritian island of Agaléga has been documented by satellite photos and other sources. Image via Construction World

New proof of a clandestine Indian military station being developed in the Indian Ocean has emerged, at the same time that Australia’s defense collaboration with the rising global power increases. The building of two naval jetties and a huge runway on the isolated Mauritian island of Agaléga has been documented by satellite photos and other sources.

Military specialists believe the buildings observed so far on the relatively inaccessible Indian Ocean Island are almost definitely military in nature.

The development of a new military facility on Agaléga was initially reported in 2018, however, both Mauritius and India have disputed that the project is for military reasons, saying that the infrastructure is exclusively for the islanders’ benefit.

During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2015 visit to Mauritius, India inked an agreement to “build up and upgrade infrastructure” — a euphemism for a military installation — in the country’s Agalega archipelago.

The two nations agreed to “set up and upgrade infrastructure for enhancing sea and air connection at Mauritius’ Outer Island, which would go a long way in improving the situation of the residents of this isolated Island,” as well as upgrading the Mauritian coastguard’s facilities.

The idea was to construct a runway in the center of the island to allow B737-900 and Airbus 321 aircraft to land, a port near the existing jetty, and structures to house communications and intelligence equipment, including a transponder system to identify friendly and hostile ships.

Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth firmly denied that the development is for military reasons during a session in parliament in May 2021. “Let me restate strongly and unequivocally that Mauritius and India have reached no agreement to establish a military facility in Agaléga.”

Agaléga, roughly 1,100 kilometers from Mauritius’ main island and home to around 300 people, is anticipated to ease marine patrols over the Mozambique Channel, which is becoming increasingly popular for large commercial ships, notably oil tankers.

The strategic outpost would allow the Indian navy to monitor maritime routes around southern Africa, which currently account for a large percentage of China’s oil imports.

The approximately 300 or so residents of Agaléga, a Mauritian island, are concerned about their future because they believe the island would be home to an Indian military base. According to military analysts, the Indian Navy is expected to exploit the island for maritime intelligence and reconnaissance missions.

Franco Poulay, who lives on the island, told reporters, “We asked for an airport and a hospital, but we didn’t ask for such a huge airport.”

“We are concerned when we see this airport.”

Arnaud Poulay, his brother, shared his sentiments. “We do need a port, on the other hand we also see that it is not in our favor. Today, no Agaléens are being trained to work on the new port, so it is clear that it will be Indian workers who will be employed in the port,” Arnaud added.

The surge in activity on the sparsely inhabited island may be seen in satellite pictures. The Agaléens are concerned that their destiny would be similar to that of the people of Diego Garcia, a Mauritian island leased to the United States by the country’s previous colonial master, the United Kingdom, in 1966. The island’s residents were compelled to relocate when it was transformed into a US military installation in 1971.

Surface fleets, submarines, and long-range bombers are all served from the facility, which is home to 15 different US military commands.

Diego Garcia is also embroiled in a long-running conflict between the United Kingdom and the island nation of Mauritius. A United Nations maritime court decided earlier this year that the UK had no jurisdiction over the island, but the UK has stated that it will only hand over it if it is no longer needed for defense.

Those who lived on Diego Garcia prior to its conversion to a military base have fought for the right to return ever since.

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