According to a recent press report in the “Indian Express” newspaper, India and Mauritius have resumed discussions over a proposal to hand over Agalega in the Indian Ocean to India either on a long term lease or by perpetual ceding of control.
India has mentioned the strategic importance of Agalega for its use as a surveillance base, especially when there are problems of Somali pirates attacking ships in the Indian Ocean Island. Will Agalega be really used as a surveillance base or is it a mere pretext to make this said small island a Military Base for India.
According to the Indian press, the whole objective is to make Agalega a surveillance base for India. This base will be situated in the atoll of the islet that India hired sometimes ago from Mauritius. This press report specifies that though the Mauritian government never says a word about this matter, many sources reveal and affirm that progress is still being made on this project. There are even talks that India intends to buy off Agalega.
The Indian press makes it clear that the so-called base of surveillance will be complementary similar to the one installed by India in Madagascar. Besides, in its issue of July 18, ‘La Lettre de L’Ocean Indien” mentions that the station or base of surveillance of the Indian Radar has started operating since the beginning of July in the north of Madagascar.
The Authority concerned in Mauritius said that they are not aware of an Indian project of that sort on Agalega. According to the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Mauritius, there is no development being done in Agalega. The same thing applies at the High Commission of India where no one says a word about such an Indian project on Agalega. We all know that there are lots of developments going on in Agalega these days to the general discomfort and inconvenience of the Agaleans thereby.
Last November, another Indian paper namely ‘The Times of India’ has mentioned that an eventual concession in favour of the great Peninsula (India) exists. This paper even mentions that a lease is to be given to India on Agalega for a need to develop it for Tourism and Agricultural purposes “or for another strategic objective”. “The Times of India” has taken great consideration to specify that “the offer made by Mauritius” is still under discussion.
Up to now the government of Mauritius, namely the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has always denied that such a project exists. The PMO has also denied this matter to the press. But the fact remains that foreign press, particularly Indian newspapers are still reporting about the progress of this strategically project. How far is the Indian press report on Agalega close to reality? Could this also be a mere propaganda of certain anti-government opportunists to establish a general perception and confusion in the mind of the people to downgrade the actual government by accusing the latter of pawning the family silver to India? Only time will tell!
On the other hand,, during his visit to Mauritius few years ago, Prime Minister Modi of India has given financial help ( about $500 millions) to Mauritius to develop Agalega. Further we learn that the Indian government has also had a hydrographic survey to determine which would be the best location in Agalega to facilitate the mooring.
There is another project similar to the atoll one. Arcon, a South African Company has submitted a big project for the construction of a village resort in Agalega consisting 60 villas, 20 luxury apartments and 1 private clinic namely, a plastic surgery. This investment is about Rs 8.1 billion.
A delegation from Arcon was in Mauritius recently to assure a follow up of this project in hand which the dossier is at the Ministry of Housing & Lands. The consideration of the lease is under examination by the Ministry of Housing & Lands.
If there is any development strategy on Agalega, I am sure that both the government of India and the government of Mauritius would have told us about it. In the meantime, the population expects the two governments to make clear statements to the world about their intention concerning Agalega. We don’t want to convert that peaceful region to a vulnerable target of foreign forces. We should not forget that countries like China, Pakistan, Iran, South Africa and others would not stand with folded arms as helpless spectators. The reaction will no doubt create a Cold War in this otherwise peaceful Indian Ocean region.
Today peaceful pacific demonstration by both Mauritians and Agaleans outside the Government House shows that people of all Indian Ocean borders are more suspicious about the strategically actions of the Jugnauth government regarding the future of Agalega. The question that comes to their minds is: Has Agalega been sold off like Diego Garcia, to India for the purpose of an Indian Military Base.? Only time will tell!
By Ahmad Macky
N.D.L.R : According to Al Jazeera, Agalega has been converted to a military base by the government of India. No denial of such has been given by India yet.
NOTE : Les points de vue exprimés dans cette rubrique ne reflètent pas nécessairement ceux de la rédaction.