Agalega: A glimpse of India’s remote island military base

Author name: 
Samuel Bashfield
Publisher: 
The Interpreter
Year: 
2021
Month: 
March
Abstract: 

Satellite imagery reveals the transformation of an Indian Ocean island into a strategic outpost. Many questions remain.

The small, remote Mauritian island of North Agalega, located in the south-western Indian Ocean, 1,122 kilometres north of Mauritius, is currently a hive of construction activity. India sought access to the islands in 2015 to develop as an air and naval staging point for surveillance of the south-west Indian Ocean – in a sense redolent of facilities other nations operate, such as the joint US-UK base at Diego Garcia.

Satellite imagery shows major airfield and port developments are well underway, reportedly worth some US$87 million. Comparing the most recent images from Google Earth to the same location as seen in 2014 shows a new 3000-metre runway – capable of hosting the Indian Navy’s new Boeing P-8I maritime patrol aircraft – and considerable apron overshadows the existing airfield in the middle of the island.

The National Security College (NSC), with the support of the Department of Defence, is leading a two-year research project on Australia’s Indo-Pacific strategy in the Indian Ocean. As a part of this project, this paper illuminates India’s new strategic outpost on the Mauritian island of Agalega. This paper first appeared on the Lowy Institute’s ‘The Interpreter’ on 2 March 2021.

Image credit: Google Earth

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