Agalega in the Shifting Geopolitical Landscape


For several years, the spectre of a clandestine Mauritius-India agreement to establish an Indian military base on Agalega has loomed over parliamentary debates and local media headlines. The mere mention of a military base on this idyllic island in the Indian Ocean has stirred controversy and raised concerns about sovereignty. Yet, amidst the speculation and allegations, the Mauritius government has consistently maintained a stance of denial, refuting the existence of any such agreement with the Indian authorities.

As early as May 2017, an official communique following Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth’s state visit to India outlined plans for Agalega’s economic development. In this statement, it was revealed that basic infrastructure, including a runway and jetty, would be constructed by the Government of India at its own expense. An agreement to this effect was signed during the Prime Minister’s state visit, signalling India’s commitment to supporting Mauritius in enhancing the economic potential of Agalega. However, the authorities and the PMO steadfastly refused at making the MOU public or laying it in the National Assembly, claiming a confidentiality clause, although India was reported not to have any qualms on its public release.

Despite the PM’s assurances therefore and the unexplained need for confidentiality, questions persisted, prompting further inquiries from both the public and political figures. Notably, Hon Xavier Duval raised concerns in May 2021, seeking clarity on the nature of the infrastructure projects and their implications for Agalega’s future. In response, the Prime Minister reiterated the collaborative nature of the projects, emphasizing that they aimed to bolster economic development rather than establish a military base. Mention was made of Mauritius partnering India in the latter’s SAGAR project for regional development and security challenges in the north Indian Ocean. It was also categorically stated that there would be no stockpile of weapons on Agalega, distinguishing it from conventional military bases established by other nations in the region.

The most recent affirmation of Mauritius’ sovereignty over Agalega came from Prime Minister Jugnauth during the inauguration of the newly constructed facilities on February 29. These projects, including a jetty and a three-kilometre-long runway, were fully financed and built by the Indian authorities. The Prime Minister reassured the public that Mauritius would retain control over these facilities, dispelling concerns about jeopardizing the island’s sovereignty.

While official statements seek to allay fears, there has been and remains a palpable need for greater openness from Mauritian and Indian authorities regarding the details of the bilateral agreement. The lack of transparency has fuelled speculation, some unhealthy or unproductive, in some quarters. Clarity on the terms and conditions governing India’s generous contribution to the development of Agalega’s infrastructure is essential.

On the other hand, amidst this controversy, it is crucial to analyze the shifting geopolitical dynamics in the Indian Ocean region. The emergence of new players with diverse strategic interests, coupled with security challenges such as piracy and geopolitical tensions, underscores the importance of safeguarding Mauritius’ security and economic interests. As a small island state, Mauritius must navigate these complexities with foresight and strategic acumen. Unfortunately, it has not developed a mature approach where political divides can be bridged for matters of national interest or where leaders of Opposition parties can be taken in the confidence of what’s brewing.

In conclusion, while the Agalega controversy continues to spark debate and speculation, it is imperative to separate fact from fiction and embrace geopolitical realities. Transparent communication from the authorities, coupled with a nuanced understanding of regional geopolitics, is essential for safeguarding Mauritius’ sovereignty and security in an ever-evolving geopolitical landscape. As Mauritius charts its course in the Indian Ocean, strategic alignment with regional dynamics that serve the nation’s interests remains paramount. By strategizing intelligently and embracing transparency, Mauritius can advance its long-term political and economic interests amidst the complexities of the Indian Ocean region.

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 1 March 2024

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