India has nearly completed the construction of a military base on Agalega Island in Mauritius, aimed at bolstering its strategic position in the Indian Ocean region, particularly in response to China's activities.
Citing an undisclosed source, a report in the Deccan Herald says the construction of essential infrastructure, including a jetty, runways, and hangars to accommodate aircraft, has been finished on Agalega Island.
Recent satellite imagery of the island supports this claim.
Given Mauritius' strategic location, India is reportedly considering deploying Boeing Poseidon 8I maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft to the newly established facility, primarily to monitor the movements of the Chinese PLA Navy in the Indian Ocean region.
Among other things, these US-built aircraft can be used to track the movement of submarines. China has been deploying submarines in the Indian Ocean for over a decade now.
India initiated the construction of this facility following the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Mauritius in March 2015, focusing on improving sea and air transportation facilities on Agalega Island. However, India officially maintains that the facility is intended to enhance Mauritius' maritime security capabilities.
Over the last few years, a 10,000-foot runway and a jetty have been constructed on the island of Agalega, which is located over 1,100 kilometre north of the main island of Mauritius.
As reported by Swarajya earlier, satellite imagery from April 2022 shows hangars large enough to house the Indian Navy's P-8I submarine-hunting aircraft are under construction next to the newly-built runway.
The hangars "measure 180 feet long and 200 feet wide — big enough to house large military aircraft such as India's P-8I Poseidon, which measures 123 feet in length and has a wingspan of 126 feet," the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative of the Washington DC-based Center for Strategic and International Studies has reported.
China has been rapidly expanding its presence in the western Indian Ocean. Apart from building its first foreign military base in Djibouti, it has invested heavily in infrastructure in Africa, particularly ports. Many of these ports are located on the eastern coast of Africa, which lies in the western Indian Ocean, and could turn into Chinese outposts in the future.
In 2022, China had operationalised a 450-metre pier at its Indian Ocean military base in Djibouti. The pier, a US Department of Defence report says, is likely to be capable of accommodating aircraft carriers and submarines operated by China's People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).
India has deployed P-8I aircraft in this part of the Indian Ocean region on various occasions in the past.
A P-8I aircraft of the Indian Navy was deployed at the La Reunion Island in the southern Indian Ocean on a five-day mission to undertake coordinated surveillance with French Navy warships in the region.
The Indian Navy had deployed a P-8I to participate in a joint patrol with France from the Reunion Island in 2020.
French Navy personnel were onboard the Indian Navy aircraft during the patrol in the southwest Indian Ocean.
India’s maritime security strategy lists the south-west Indian Ocean, including the Mozambique Channel (used by shipping transiting the Cape of Good Hope) and the east coast of Africa, where China has been investing heavily, as one of the primary areas of interest.
The infrastructure that has come up on Agalega will support India’s maritime assets, including P-8Is, in the western Indian Ocean, particularly waters close to the western coast of Africa, an increasingly important region where the Indian Navy’s engagements have been relatively limited.
An appeal from Swarajya
At Swarajya, we rely on our readers' support through subscriptions to sustain our media platform. Unlike larger conglomerates, we are unable to relentlessly chase advertising money — our model is largely built on your patronage.
Your support has never been more crucial. We work tirelessly to deliver 10-15 high-quality articles daily, ensuring you receive insightful content from 7 AM to 10 PM.
If you believe India's story has to be articulated in a way it has never been done before without shrugging it off, become a patron (or) subscribe now for ₹̶2̶4̶0̶0̶ ₹1999 and get 12 print issues, unlimited digital access for 1 year, a special India that is Bharat T-shirt (Offer ends soon).
We are counting on you!