India Building Secret Naval Base in Mauritius to Counter China - Reports

After reportedly extending a $100 million defence credit line to the African state of Mauritius, India is constructing a secret naval facility on the country's territory which will facilitate further power projection operations in the Indian Ocean. 

According to a report by Qatari broadcaster Al-Jazeera, the Indian Navy's base under development includes a 3-kilometre long airstrip on Agalega island which is located approximately 1,100 kilometres north of the main island of Mauritius. 

The conservative project is estimated to cost approximately $250 million, although it remains uncertain what the operational costs will be, how many personnel will be stationed there, or whether the facility is intended to host combat aircraft. Mauritius has longstanding economic and cultural ties with India, with nearly half of its population being of Indian origin. 

The facility is reportedly intended to counter China’s growing military power in the region, with Beijing’s growing fleet of carriers including supercarriers, as well as high endurance destroyers and nuclear-powered submarines providing the ability to maintain a strong presence in the Indian Ocean. 

The Qatari report alleges that as part of a deal, the Indian government has pledged to develop infrastructure for the 300 inhabitants of Agalega island - a somewhat dubious claim since military facilities in such key locations would generally cost much more to gain permission to build. If true, however, it would follow a 2015 agreement between India and Mauritius to upgrade the infrastructure and improve sea and air connectivity on the Outer Island of Mauritius. 

The Mauritian government, under ethnically Indian Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth, has denied reports that India is constructing a military facility, however, and Al Jazeera has been known to publish several fabricated news reports pertaining to foreign affairs in the past. 

Tensions between India and China notably spiked in 2020 after military units clashed in the disputed Ladakh border region, although both parties have taken steps to improve ties and reduce tensions.

 Western powers, and the Donald Trump administration in particular, notably sought to capitalise on tensions to pull India into their sphere of influence and form the beginnings of an anti-Beijing axis in Asia, although Delhi’s longstanding tradition of non alignment and neutrality and its close economic ties with Beijing have impeded such efforts - to the detriment of Western interests. 

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