In 2015, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Mauritius, India had signed an agreement with the remote Indian Ocean island nation for “setting up and upgradation of infrastructure” — a euphemism for a military base — in the country’s Agalega archipelago.
The plan was to build a runway in the middle of the island to facilitate the operations of B737-900 and Airbus 321 type of aircraft, a port near the existing jetty and structures to house communications and intelligence installations, including a transponder system to identify ships as friend or foe.
The project, which was first mooted in 2005 and became a contentious issue in the domestic politics of Mauritius, made little progress in the first few years after the agreement was signed. But sometime in 2018, the Narendra Modi government awarded the project to develop the runway and port infrastructure on the island to India’s Afcons Infrastructure, and work began in 2019.
Six years after India and Mauritius signed the agreement, the base, shrouded in secrecy, is slowly taking shape on the northern of the two Agalega islands, located over 1,100 kilometre north of the main island of Mauritius.
The island sits in the middle of the south-west Indian Ocean, with Seychelles to its north, the Maldives and the US military base in Diego Garcia to its east, and Madagascar and the east coast of Africa to its west.