Why is India building a military base on Agalega Island?
As India expands its economy, it’s importance in the global stage increases. With the Indian Ocean Region being it’s backyard, the Indian Navy is the largest regional force in the IOR. The increasing presence of PLAN demands IN have enough bases in the IOR to monitor activities. In addition to that, it also serves a berthing point for IN to continue its commitments to anti piracy missions and extending the Indian strategic reach in the African continent. Let’s have a look at the Agalega island.
The Agalega islands are situated approximately 1064 kms north of mainland Mauritius.
There are two Agalega islands – North and South. Out of this India sought access to these islands as an air and naval staging point for surveillance in 2015. Based on satellite imagery it is said that the development activities could have cost around 80-100 million USD. This new base will serve as an intelligence outpost. What makes this island special is that the local inhabitants are only 300 and hence serves as a very decent base. A closer look at satellite imagery indicates that the runway is 3kms in length. This means that the runway can be used for operating Indian Navy’s Boeing P-8I maritime patrol aircraft.
Also if one compares present satellite imagery with that in 2014 or 2015 one could easily see new settlements that have been constructed. It is said there is acommodation for 430 Indian workers. A closer look also reveals that there 2 new jetties which are longer in place of the old smaller one.
The island will serve as a key strategic base for communications and electronic intelligence facilities.
India has long had a close security relationship with Mauritius, anchoring its prominent role in the south-west Indian Ocean. They share Hindu religion with many Mauritians and that serves as a bolstering factor. Mauritius is hence describes as the “Little India” of the south-west Indian Ocean. This is evidenced in part by Indian funding of major infrastructure projects, and provision of lines of credit. The roles of National Security Advisor and head of the Mauritius Coast Guard are infact Indian officials. Hence both India and Mauritius stand to gain from the development of Agalega islands. The Assumption island deal got stuck due to political opposition in Seychelles and hence Agalega island might be militarised in the future to make up for it.
The French Reunion island is to the south west of Mauritius mainland. France has deep interests in Africa since a long time an given the recent strategic relations India and France share, India stands to gain from France and so does the latter too. In addition to this the location of US-UK joint base Diego Garcia also serves as a suitable partner base.
Agalega islands bring the IN much closer to Somalia than Lakshadweep and hence IN is benefitted significantly from both anti-piracy missions and extending the areas of power projection perspective. The latter would take a very bold shape once IN gets their third aircraft carrier INS Vishal.