Since last March, the Indian military base of Agaléga, north of Mauritius, has been exacerbating tensions. Despite the compelling evidence, New Delhi and Port Louis deny the militarization of the island. But India would have lied on this subject.
"Island of Secrets". This is the name of a journalistic investigation that has shaken public opinion since last March in Mauritius. According to the Australian think-tank Lowy Institute, the small island of Agaléga, in the north of Mauritius, is the site of a controversial project: an Indian military base is indeed under construction.
Several media outlets, from ABC News to World Affairs to Al Jazeera, have investigated. Satellite images show that the island of Agaléga was home to a large-scale construction site. The island of 300 inhabitants has arrived, inexplicably, 400 Indian workers. An 800-meter airstrip, a terminal, barracks, a hospital and a communications tower were erected there.
All of these facilities are controlled by the Indian military, and two-thirds of the island is now inaccessible to residents. Enough to raise questions and give free rein to all theories ...
The Journal of Africa was interested in the satellite images provided by Al Jazeera, but also in more recent images, which show that the site is progressing at high speed. A witness at the scene traveled the distance between Port-Louis d'Agaléga, by boat, before being stopped by Indian coast guards and being escorted, by force, off the coast of Mauritius.
Park guide walks #Seychelles retreated on Assumption, but Maurice gave in to the Indians on Agalega. After Diego Garcia, a new island in the Indian Ocean transformed into a military base. #Mauritius #India
With @ Leiyla08 https://t.co/8yUGSn4Sa6
- Babook 🇷🇪 (@ Babook1) August 6
India and Mauritius deny
"Soldiers aboard three Zodiacs surrounded my boat, I had not received any warning", tells us this witness, who explains that his family, who lives on the island of Agalega, has been "unreachable for three months" . He goes on to say that it was "Indian soldiers" who forced him to turn back, and not Mauritians. Some members of his family have managed to reach Madagascar and, according to their claims, a wall of barbed wire separates the living area in the east of Agaléga and the north of the island, where the Indian construction site is progressing.
Satellite images show that six new buildings have been erected around the airstrip, including three hangars. There is no confirmation at present that military planes were stored in the hangars. Faced with the blackout around this site, the Indian and Mauritian authorities are trying to put on a good face.
The press secretary of the Prime Minister of Mauritius, Ken Arian, assured in August that "there is no agreement between Mauritius and India for the creation of a military base at Agaléga". The airstrip and the jetty are part of a project dating from 2015 and there is no question of "military use", still according to the Prime Ministry.
The land used for these constructions belongs to the State of Mauritius. The area is now made inaccessible to Mauritians, well guarded by dozens of Indian soldiers.
Agaléga, a secret base, and #India's claim to power. pic.twitter.com/QuqMfp9ZoA
- Rao Muhammad Daniyal (@ RaoMDaniyal1) August 9
A story repeating itself?
If the investigations show that the Indian and Mauritian authorities are telling lies, the history of the archipelago also makes it possible to doubt the official versions. The site developed on the island of Agaléga looks like the one that had been launched on the archipelago of Chagos, claimed by Mauritius but under the effective control of the Seychelles.
The archipelago was cut off from the world, as Agaléga is now, for more than twelve years. In 1973, the American-British military base of Diego Garcia rose from the ground. A base that housed six military ships, including two aircraft carriers. After several appeals in London, the Chagossian authorities succeeded in obtaining a favorable judgment from the two British parliamentary chambers and the support of the UN, in 2008.
Mauritians remember this episode and now fear that Agaléga's sovereignty will be taken away from them. The inhabitants watch helplessly as the Indian soldiers occupy the island. An occupation which seems to have obtained the approval of the authorities of Mauritius, who carefully avoid venturing into this subject.
Agaléga: Indian military footprint is growing in Mauritius https://t.co/WnwQ0Ebwje via @RFI
In French my Grand Reportage Radio France International #India building military capabilities in #Mauritius #Agalega to Iceland #IndianOcean @SamuelBashfield @katecrawford @journalisthasan
- Abdoollah Earally (@AbdEarally) October 6, 2021