Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
The battle to dominate the Indian Ocean region has been raging for some time now. India is building its first strategic Naval Base. It has started taking shape in Agalega, an island 1000 km north of Mauritius, which lies in the southwestern Indian Ocean. These North and South Agalega Islands are part of Mauritius.
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Though a first hydrographic survey of this island was started by the Indian Navy in 2002. An existing semi-prepared runway was being used by Dornier 228 aircraft of the Indian navy. A flight consisting of two aircraft with an Indian naval crew has been there attached with Mauritius Coast guard since 1998, based at Port Louis. As a matter of fact, the Commandant of the Mauritius Coast Guard t is still an Indian naval officer, and even the patrol ship of Mauritius CG, MCCG Barracuda is commanded and manned by an Indian naval crew. This ship was built in India at GRSE Kolkata and commissioned with Mauritius CG in 2014.
The agreement to build this base was signed in 2015. Actual work on groundWork started in 2019, and by the end of 2020, the signs of construction of a 10,000-foot runway and a jetty for naval vessels were clearly visible. India’s first foreign naval base has started taking shape now.
Image Source: Wikimedia
Based on the high-resolution satellite image dated 20 April 2022 shows hangars large enough to house the Indian Navy’s P-8I submarine-hunting aircraft are under construction next to the newly-built runway.
Indian Navy can base & deploy its P-8I aircraft from Agalega Island or may conduct stage through operations.
Currently one of its P8I aircraft is at Reunion Island, an overseas department of France in the southwest Indian Ocean, not very far from where India is building its own base.
It is on a five-day mission to undertake coordinated surveillance with French Navy warships in the western Indian Ocean region.
India has deployed Dornier (MR aircraft) & P-8I (LRMR&ASW) aircraft from Reunion Island in the past as well.
China’s first foreign military base, located in Djibouti, a country on Africa’s east coast, was officially opened in 2017.
China is building infrastructure at this base and is likely to support its nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers in the Indian Ocean. China has also invested in many ports and related infrastructure projects on the east coast of Africa. Some of these could turn into Chinese outposts at some point in the future.
With the construction of a naval base on Agalega and the deployment of P-8Is, India will be very effectively capable to keep an eye on Chinese activities and counter its growing presence in this part of the Indian Ocean.
The P-8Is will make life difficult for Chinese submarine crews.
Unlike the situation on the land borders, India is in no mood to let the Chinese navy have any advantage in the Indian Ocean region.
(Commodore Vijesh Kumar Garg, VSM is Executive Director of the Chennai Centre for China Studies. The views expressed are personal.)