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Military base India built in Mauritius ready for asset deployment; Indian Navy ship visits Port Louis, space deal likely

The military base New Delhi built in Agaléga Island of Mauritius, the proposed signing of the space cooperation deal & the visit of the Indian Navy’s INS Sharda to Port Louis are all intended to project India’s power in the Indian Ocean.
Last Updated 31 October 2023, 17:28 IST

A military base India has been building on an island in Mauritius to gain a strategic edge against China in the Indian Ocean region has neared completion and is almost ready for long-term deployment of air and naval assets.

New Delhi is now set to ink a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Port Louis for joint development and launch of an earth observation satellite for Mauritius. A warship of the Indian Navy, INS Sharda, has also docked at Port Louis on Tuesday. During the ship’s stay at Port Louis till Tuesday, the personnel of the Indian Navy and the National Coast Guard of Mauritius will over the next three days engage in joint harbour and sea training exercises as well as a joint drill on surveillance of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the East African nation.

The military base New Delhi built in Agaléga Island of Mauritius, the proposed signing of the space cooperation deal and the visit of the Indian Navy’s INS Sharda to Port Louis are all intended to project India’s power in the southwestern Indian Ocean, in response to the increasing forays of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the region.

V Muraleedharan, Minister of State for External Affairs, will pay an official visit to Port Louis from Wednesday to Thursday to participate in the commemoration of the 189th anniversary of the arrival of indentured labourers from India to Mauritius. He will witness the signing of the MoU between India and Mauritius for the joint development and launch of a satellite to help enhance the earth observation capability of the Indian Ocean island nation, according to a statement released by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in New Delhi.

The High Commission of India in Port Louis announced on X the arrival of the INS Sharda at the main port of the island of Mauritius. It said that the Indian Navy warship had also arrived at Port Louis to commemorate the arrival of the indentured labourers from India to Mauritius.

The MEA or New Delhi’s diplomatic mission in Port Louis refrained from making any comment on India’s role in developing the military base in Agaléga Island of Mauritius.

A source, however, said that the construction of a jetty, runways and hangers to accommodate aircraft had already been completed in Agaléga Island. Given the strategic location of Mauritius, India may consider deploying some of its Boeing Poseidon 8I maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft in the newly constructed facility, ostensibly to keep watch on the movement of the Chinese PLA Navy’s vessels in the Indian Ocean region.

India started building the facility after signing an MoU with Mauritius “for the Improvement in sea and air transportation facilities” in Agaléga Island in March 2015.

New Delhi, however, officially maintains that the facility is intended to help Mauritius enhance its maritime security capabilities.

The project, however, triggered protests from a section of the local people with the opposition parties in Mauritius, accusing the successive governments led by Anerood Jugnauth and Pravind Jugnauth of undermining the sovereignty of the nation by allowing New Delhi to build a military base in Agaléga Island. Pravind Jugnauth in July 2022 denied that the island would be turned into a military base. He, however, also told the opposition in parliament that a confidentiality clause in the 2015 MoU between India and Mauritius stipulated that the details of the bilateral deal would not be made public.

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(Published 31 October 2023, 17:28 IST)

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