Indian and Mauritian prime ministers inaugurated an airstrip and a jetty to ensure security and connectivity to Mauritius’ Agalega islands.

Agalega Islands

  • Agaléga Islands, comprising of two islands namely North Island and South Island, are a remote dependency of Mauritius located in the western Indian Ocean.
  • They lie approximately 1,050 kilometers north of  Port Louis (the capital city of Mauritius). 
  • The primary settlements on the island are Vingt Cinq on the North Island and Sainte Rita on the South Island.
  • In 2015, India signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to improve sea and air transportation facilities. 

Significance of New Airstrip and Jetty

• India

  • Strengthens bilateral cooperation between India and Mauritius
  • Improves sea and air transportation facilities
  • Demonstrates India’s commitment to assisting Mauritius in infrastructure development
  • Fosters mutual benefit and partnership between the two nations

• Mauritius 

  • Supports Mauritius in meeting development goals and safeguarding its interests
  • Enables more effective monitoring of Mauritius’ Exclusive Economic Zone
  • Enhances connectivity and security for Mauritius’ Agalega islands 

• Security Threat: India is concerned about potential security threats posed by the presence of China in the Indian Ocean. 

Challenges for India in the Indian Ocean region 

  • China maintains embassies in all six key Indian Ocean islands — Sri Lanka, Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles, Madagascar, and Comoros unlike traditional players
  • String of Pearls: China’s String of Pearls strategy involves building commercial and military bases and ports in multiple countries. 
  • Establishment of the first overseas military facility in Djibouti in 2017 
  • Patrolling the Indo-Pacific Region: Reports indicate that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy of China has become the largest naval force in terms of size and numbers. 
  • Expansion of Belt & Road Initiative (BRI): China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) poses concerns for India as it seeks to increase its influence by co-opting island nations off the eastern coast of Africa. 
  • Debt Trap Diplomacy: India is concerned about China’s “debt trap diplomacy” in the Indian Ocean region, which could lead to greater Chinese presence in key locations.

India’s measures in the Indian Ocean:

  • SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region): India introduced the SAGAR initiative in 2015, aiming for active cooperation among the littoral countries of the Indian Ocean region to enhance maritime security and promote economic growth.
  • IORA (Indian-Ocean Rim Association): India has a strong influence in the Indian Ocean region and supports organizations like the Indian-Ocean Rim Association to promote cooperation and dialogue among member states.
  • Agreements with other nations: India has signed strategic agreements with countries like France, Seychelles, Oman, Singapore, and Indonesia to enhance naval cooperation and access to facilities in the Indian Ocean region.
  • IONS (Indian-Ocean Naval Symposium): India participates in the IONS, which is a forum seeking to increase maritime cooperation among navies operating in the Indian Ocean region.
  • Security Grid: India is working with littoral countries to establish a security grid aimed at preventing the militarization of the Indian Ocean and ensuring maritime security. 

Way forward:

  • India should continue to pursue a diplomatic and goodwill approach in the Indian Ocean region to foster cooperation and maintain stability.
  • Strengthening its deterrent position through strategic alliances and military capabilities is crucial for India’s security.
  • Ensuring the peace and stability of the Indian Ocean remains a top priority for India, requiring proactive engagement with regional and international partners.

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