The Agalega Islands is a small Mauritius archipelago, where 359 people live from the coconut trade and fishing. Now, however, the islands are being expanded to become an Indian military base, through which the country wants to strengthen its hold on the Indian Ocean, the most important water body in the world. This is the conclusion of years of research conducted by Al Jazeera journalists.
A two-day boat trip from the main island of Mauritius, 1,100 kilometers away, life is serene for the 359 residents of Agalige Islands. Every year a ship, the Mauritius Troche, comes to supply them four times. The ship is moored a short distance from the coast, after which small ships transport the goods to shore. The 800-meter runway is used almost exclusively for Dornier’s plane, which is used only by the government of Mauritius for medical evacuations.
In 2019, the lives of the Creole residents changed dramatically. Large cargo ships dock off the coast of the North Island and remain there for several months. Semi-permanent huts and all kinds of new dwellings appear on the grounds. This is soon followed by a throng of guest Indian workers, who are building new docks and a new airstrip on the island. This would be over 3km long, compared to the runways at Brussels Zaventem Airport and big enough for the world’s largest cargo plane.
Expansion cost in full: $250 million, paid by the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to AFCONS entrepreneur. Strange building and costly for investments in 359 residents. The real reason for this is unknown, but it is clear that it has something to do with military interventions.
The reason behind the military base (although both the Indian government and Mauritius deny that it is about military investments) is not far from being pursued: 60% of all global oil transport passes through the Indian Ocean. In addition, the Strait of Malacca and the Suez Canal connect the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea respectively.
Indian investment in the Indian Ocean countries is the way for the Indian government to consolidate its influence in the region. “It has snowed geopolitically in the region,” said Aditya Dev, a research analyst at the Royal United Services Institute in London. “Free passage through this region is important for the energy supply of many countries, as well as the economic prospects. In addition to India, France, the United States and the United Kingdom are important actors in the region. France, through its occupation of the Reunion Islands, the United States and the United Kingdom jointly operate the base. Military on the island of Diego Garcia.
The emergence of Japan, Australia and China in the region, among other countries, may be the decisive factor that pushed India to invest in the region now. China has already invested in infrastructure in the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Tanzania in accordance with its geopolitical strategy, and opened its first overseas military base in Djibouti in 2017.