- Recently, Mauritius has denied a report of Al Jazeera news agency that it has allowed India to build a military base on the remote island of Agalega.
- He clarified that though two projects are in the work (a three-kilometer airstrip and a jetty), they would not be used for military purposes.
Key points About Agalega Island
- Location: It is a set of two islands, located in the Indian Ocean, about 1,000 kilometers north of Mauritius island.
- ‘Project Agalega’ by India: In 2015, India had signed an MOU with Mauritius to develop Agalega Island. Under this, more than $200 million projects are being funded by India.
- It includes the construction of a jetty, rebuilding, and extension of the runway, and building an airport terminal on Agalega Island.
- Significance for India:
- Enhancing maritime domain awareness: having a military presence on the Island will boost the maritime capabilities of the Indian navy.
- Countering China: it will help in effectively countering the Chinese ‘string of pearl policy’ aimed at dominating the Indian ocean by placing military assets at key locations.
- Safeguarding India maritime trade: 95% of India’s trade by volume and 68% of trade by value comes via the Indian Ocean.
- Chagos islands: Al Jazeera report also raised fears of a repeat of the 1965 decision by Britain to separate the Chagos Islands from Mauritius and set up a joint military base with the United States on Diego Garcia.
- It is presently a British overseas territory- a living legacy of Britain’s colonial past.
- Diego Garcia is the largest Island among the Chagos Islands and the US Military base is located here.
- In 1965, three years before the independence of Mauritius (19668), Britain detached the Chagos Islands from Mauritius.
- In 2019, Mauritius won the International Court of Justice (ICJ) case, which asked the United Kingdom to return the Chagos Archipelago to Mauritius.
- Though ICJ judgment is only advisory in nature, it significantly weakens Britain’s claim for continued presence on the Islands.