Agaléga is a Mauritian territory, made up of two islands, around 1,000 km north of Mauritius.
During French colonial rule in the 1800s, coconut plantations were established, which continue to be Agaléga’s only export.
It is home to a population of around 300 people, most of whom are Creole, and descendants of Malagasy slaves.
There are 2 ferries a year from Mauritius which bring supplies to Agalégans.
The islands have no tourism industry, and until recently, remained largely untouched.
INDIA’S INVOLEMENT IN AGALEGA
In 2015, during Prime Minister Modi of India’s visit to Mauritius, a deal was signed with Mauritius for the development of the Agaléga islands, at the cost of around $87million (RS3 Billion).
The project would include building an airport terminal, extending Agalega’s runway, and construction of jetties. The work was awarded to two Indian companies, to be completed in February 2021.
Since signing the deal, there have also been reports of the Indian Navy’s interest in setting up surveillance infrastructure on the islands, and a transponder system to identify ships as friend or foe.
This, in addition to the need for such vast construction on a small island led to the Prime Minister of Mauritius facing tough questions in 2018 as to whether the development of Agaléga would include a military component.
AGALEGA’S ECOGLOGICAL CONCERNS
On the 17th February, pictures from L’Express (a Mauritian newspaper) revealed images showing environmental damages. Oil is seen polluting water, and swathes of concrete are covering the land. These pictures were allegedly leaked from an insider working on the construction projects.
AGALEGA’S MILTARY CONCERNS
Koalision Zilwa Pou Lape (Islanders Coalition for Peace) and La Voix des Agaléens (Voice of the Agalegens) are groups who have been protesting against the project and are calling for more transparency regarding its intention.
France maintains naval bases off its Reunion islands, while China has a string of naval assets in the region from Pakistan to Djibouti. Security experts say the development of Agaléga is a significant boost for Indian for military influence in the Indian Ocean.
India has previously faced backlash over potential development projects in Maldives’ Addu Atoll, and Assumption Island in the Seychelles in 2018.
These, in addition to the ongoing battle over the Chagos islands, is leading to fears that Agalega’s islands will be the next to become militarised.
In October 2018, in response to protests, the Mauritian government responded, “Unlike the military bases run by other countries, the Indian model is of a soft base. We don’t bar locals from moving through any Indian-made project. So these governments get more control over their domain, without diluting their sovereignty.”
They also added that they believed the protests are the product of “misunderstandings and some motivated elements”.
Agaléga à L'Autre Bout du Monde: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtzF2DjhbT8