Does India have a secret navy base in Mauritius? Al Jazeera claims so.

| Updated: August 3, 2021 8:58 pm

In a major investigation , Yarno Ritzen and Al Jazeera Investigative Unit claims to have found a secret base of Indian navy on a remote island called Agalega

Satellitery, financial data and on-the-ground evidence obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit point to India building a naval facility on the remote Mauritian island of Agaléga, they claimed.

Military experts who have analysed Al Jazeera’s evidence say an airstrip under construction will almost certainly be used for maritime patrol missions by India’s navy. However, we have no response from India side regarding this. Vibes of India shall update the Indian version when it is available.

Rumours and media reports about the military base first surfaced in 2018 but both Mauritius and India have denied that the construction project is for military purposes and say the infrastructure is only to benefit the islanders.

Satellite pictures reveal how Agaléga, located about 1,100km (684 miles) from Mauritius’ main island and home to about 300 people, is seeing the construction of two large jetties and a runway that is more than 3km (1.84 miles) long.

“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,” Abhishek Mishra, associate fellow at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) think-tank in New Delhi told Al Jazeera.

“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,” Mishra said, referring to India’s P-8I maritime patrol aircraft that can be used for surveillance, anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare.

Aircraft that want to land on Agaléga currently have to use a short 800-metre landing strip, only long enough for the Mauritian coastguard’s propeller planes.

The new airstrip, still under construction, will be as long as runways used by the biggest aeroplanes in the world at large international airports.

A comparison of satellite pictures shows the increase of activity on the sparsely populated island (Maxar), Samuel Bashfield, a researcher at the National Security College at the Australian National University, told Al Jazeera the Indian Ocean is increasingly becoming a hotspot for nations to expand their geopolitical influence.

Using shipping data, Al Jazeera tracked about a dozen bulk carriers that made the trip from Indian ports to Agaléga to deliver construction materials.

The pictures and data show how, over the last two years, the island has become home to hundreds of construction workers living in a semi-permanent camp on the northern tip of the 12km (7.5-mile) long island.

About 1,000 Indian construction workers are working on Agalega (Al Jazeera)

Maritime patrols

The infrastructure construction on Agaléga comes after a deal made in 2015 between the governments of Mauritius and India.

The two countries agreed on “setting up and upgradation of infrastructure for improving sea and air connectivity at the Outer Island of Mauritius which will go a long way in ameliorating the condition of the inhabitants of this remote Island” and improving the facilities used by the Mauritian coastguard.

In May 2021, during a session in parliament, Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth categorically denied that the construction is for military purposes. “Let me reiterate, most emphatically and in unequivocal terms, that there is no agreement between Mauritius and India to set up a military base in Agaléga”.

According to some other experts, 

“We see China asserting greater influence and we see various Chinese military platforms in the Indian Ocean,” he said, referring to China’s military base in Djibouti and access to several ports in the region.

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