Updated February 29th, 2024 at 20:25 IST

India-funded Airstrip, Other Projects to Boost Connectivity, Maritime Surveillance in Mauritius

India and Mauritius are natural partners in maritime domain to combat traditional and non-traditional challenges in Indian Ocean region, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said after virtually inaugurating a new airstrip, a jetty and six community development projects in the island nation.

PM Modi and Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth jointly inaugurate development projects at Agalega Island. | Image:X
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India and Mauritius are natural partners in the maritime domain to combat traditional and non-traditional challenges in the Indian Ocean region, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday after virtually inaugurating a new airstrip, a jetty and six community development projects in the island nation. The India-assisted projects in Agalega island of Mauritius are seen as significant as they are expected to boost connectivity as well as maritime security and surveillance in the strategic waters in the region.

After inaugurating the projects along with Mauritian prime minister Pravind Jugnauth, Modi flagged concerns over challenges in the Indian Ocean region and said India and Mauritius are "natural partners" in the maritime domain to deal with them. In his comments, Jugnauth asserted that there has never been any plan by Mauritius to relinquish its sovereignty over the Agalega as well as to transform the island into a military base.

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"I wish to forcefully deplore and condemn the India-bashing campaign that some people in Mauritius have fomented," he said.

"I wish to make it clear once again that the agreement between Mauritius and India with regard to the new airstrip and the jetty facility in Agalega aims essentially at assisting us in upgrading and reinforcing our maritime security," he added. In his remarks, Modi also announced that Mauritius will be the first country to join India's Jan Aushadhi scheme, which is an initiative aimed at providing quality medicines at affordable prices. The Indian prime minister also highlighted the challenges in the Indian Ocean region.

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"Many traditional and non-traditional challenges are emerging in the Indian Ocean Region. All these challenges affect our economy. India and Mauritius are natural partners in the field of maritime security to deal with the challenges," Modi said at the virtual ceremony. "We are actively working to ensure security, prosperity and stability in the Indian Ocean Region. We are cooperating together in all areas like monitoring of exclusive economic zone, joint patrolling, hydrography, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief," he said.

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His comments came amid increasing concerns in New Delhi over China's growing military forays into the Indian Ocean region which is largely considered as the backyard of the Indian Navy. Modi said the inauguration of the airstrip and jetty at Agalega Island will further advance the cooperation. The prime minister described Mauritius as an important partner under India's 'Neighborhood First' policy and that the bilateral development partnership has been an important pillar of the strategic relations.

"Our development partnerships are based on the priorities of Mauritius. Be it Mauritius's needs related to EEZ (exclusive economic zone) security, or health security, India has always respected the needs of Mauritius," he said. Modi said the basic objective of India's efforts is to bring about meaningful changes in the lives of common people in Mauritius.

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"Today holds a special significance for our development partnership. I am extremely happy that today we are seeing the completion of the commitment I had made in 2015. In India these days it is being called 'Modi's Guarantee'," he said. The prime minister also talked about the "vibrant, strong and unique" partnership between India and Mauritius, adding the island nation is New Delhi's special partner under its vision of 'SAGAR' (Security and Growth For All in the Region).

"Our relations have gained unprecedented momentum in the last 10 years. We have achieved new heights in mutual cooperation," he said. The inauguration of these projects came weeks after the launch of India's Unified Payments Interface (UPI) systems and RuPay card services in Mauritius. Jugnauth said some ill-minded people are spreading misinformation about the development projects.

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There has never been any agenda for Mauritius to relinquish its sovereignty over the Agalega islands as some ill-minded people have attempted to believe, he said. "There has never been any agenda to transform Agalega into a military base. The new facilities will provide the logistics platforms for a more effective surveillance and monitoring of our vast EEZ (exclusive economic zone) of 2.3 million square kilometres," he said.

"We will be in a better position to initiate counter-piracy and counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics actions, fight human trafficking and combat unreported and unregulated fishing," he said. Jugnauth also hailed the India-assisted development projects. "We are making history today on the island of Agalega with the inauguration of a new airstrip, a new jetty and several other development projects," Jugnauth said at the event. "This event marks a great moment for the remarkable and exemplary partnership between Mauritius and India," he said.

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Published February 29th, 2024 at 20:15 IST