Exclusive- Why does India build a secret naval base abroad?

India is said to be building a secret naval base in the island nation of Mauritius to increase its ability to deal with China.

Our correspondent reported that the Indian navy is building a new military base and a 3 km airstrip on the island of Agalega in the Republic of Mauritius, a country in East Africa. According to estimates, the total project value is about 250 million USD.

Analysts believes that this is part of an agreement between the government of India and Mauritius. Accordingly, the Indian government has agreed to develop infrastructure for 300 residents living on Agalega Island in return for New Delhi to build a base here.

However, the Mauritian government led by Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth has denied that an Indian military facility is being built on Agalega island.

In 2015, the governments of India and Mauritius signed an agreement on infrastructure upgrades to improve sea and air connectivity on the island of Agalega located in the Indian Ocean.

“There is a long way to go in improving living conditions for the inhabitants of the remote island of Agalega. The infrastructures on the island will enhance the ability of the Mauritian defense forces to protect the national interests on Agalega,” reads a text of the agreement between India and Mauritius.

However, some residents on the island of Agalega expressed concern about the large scale of the infrastructure system built here. They argue that these facilities are not suitable for the needs of the people.

“We wanted an airport and a hospital, but we didn’t want such a big airport,” our correspondent quoted Franco Poulay, a resident on the island of Agalega.

Seshadri Vasan, a former Indian Navy general and now director of the Chennai Center for Chinese Studies, said that once the Agalega island facility is fully operational, the base will increase maritime awareness for the Indian Navy in the Indian Ocean.

“It has the potential to be a counterweight to China, which currently has a military base in the Horn of Africa country Djibouti,” Vasan said.

According to Vasan, the presence of the Indian navy in Mauritius will ensure that the country “does not fall into the spiral of Chinese influence”, after Beijing and Port Louis signed the Free Trade Agreement in December 2020.

In February this year, India and Mauritius signed the Comprehensive Economic Partnership and Cooperation Treaty (CECPA) during the visit of Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar to the Mauritius capital Port Louis.

Over the years, India has repeatedly feared that China’s increased naval and military presence would pose a direct challenge to Indian naval dominance around the island nation of Mauritius.

Mauritius has long been known to have traditionally close economic and cultural ties to India, as nearly half of its population is of Indian origin. The expansion of China’s activities in the Indian Ocean caused New Delhi to change its foreign policy with the Port Louis government. Accordingly, the Indian government has extended a defense credit line of $100 million to the East African country by 2021.

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