India is building Indian Military Base In Agalega, Mauritius to increase its presence in the western Indian Ocean. Over the last few years, a 10,000-foot runway and a jetty have been constructed on the island, which is located over 1,100 kilometre north of the main island of Mauritius. Now, satellite imagery 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.
The hangars “measure 180 feet long and 200 feet wide — big enough to house large military aircraft such as India’s P-8I Poseidon, which measures 123 in length and has a wingspan of 126 feet,” the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative of the Washington DC-based Center for Strategic and International Studies has reported.
This development confirms what maritime security experts have long suspected — India plans to deploy its P-8I long-range surveillance aircraft on the island. China has been rapidly expanding its presence in the western Indian Ocean. Apart from building its first foreign military base in Djibouti, it has invested heavily in infrastructure in Africa, particularly ports. Many of these ports are located on the eastern coast of Africa, which lies in the western Indian Ocean, and could turn into Chinese outposts in the future.
India In Western Indian Ocean
Earlier this week, India deployed one of its P-8I aircraft at the La Réunion Island in the southern Indian Ocean on a five-day mission to undertake coordinated surveillance with French Navy warships in the region. “The P-8I aircraft will engage with French warships and undertake coordinated surveillance missions in area to enhance maritime safety and security in the Southern Indian Ocean, including the Mozambique Channel,” an Indian Navy spokesperson has said.
It is not the first time that an Indian Navy P-8I has been deployed to the Island of Réunion, an overseas department of France. A P-8I aircraft of the Indian Navy participated in a joint patrol with France from the Réunion Island in 2020. French Navy personnel were onboard the Indian Navy aircraft during the patrol in the southwest Indian Ocean.
India’s maritime security strategy lists the south-west Indian Ocean, including the Mozambique Channel (used by shipping transiting the Cape of Good Hope) and the east coast of Africa, where China has been investing heavily, as one of the primary areas of interest. The infrastructure coming up on Agalega will support India’s maritime assets, including P-8Is, in the western Indian Ocean, particularly waters close to the western coast of Africa, an increasingly important region where the Indian Navy’s engagements have been relatively limited.