India, Mauritius boost airstrip, jetty facilities on island for surveillance

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India and Mauritius inaugurated a new airstrip and jetty on the is-lands of Agalega, boosting military infrastructure in a region marked by increasing piracy attempts and forays by Chinese war-ships.

The new facilities are helpful in “upgrading and reinforcing our maritime security,” Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth said at Thursday’s inauguration ceremony. He added that the infrastructure is critical for countering terrorism, piracy, and the illegal narcotics trade near Agalega, which sits in an exclusive economic zone stretching 2.3 million square kilometers (888,000 square miles).

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Prime Minister Jugnauth clarified that Mauritius will remain in con-trol of Agalega, which is located about 1,080 kilometers north of the nation’s main island, also called Mauritius, and 3,729 kilometers west of Mumbai, India. Agalega — which is comprised of two islands — sits in a zone frequently used by cargo ships moving goods from Asia.

The race to control vast stretches of the Indian Ocean is heating up. The region is critical for global trade. Countries as varied as the US, France, the UK, India, and China are deploying more war-ships than ever before in the waters.

The new facilities in Mauritius are advantageous for India. War-ships deployed by the South Asian nation can refuel from Agalega. Big aircraft — including the P8i, India’s fleet of US-made long range maritime surveillance aircraft — can also land on a new three-kilometer-long airstrip.

Nearby, the Maldives recently ordered Indian military personnel to leave the island nation and remove their helicopters and a radar chain used for monitoring commercial ships.

India has extended a credit line of $1 billion and a grant of $400 million to Mauritius over the last few years, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the inauguration ceremony on Agalega. India has also allocated 3.7 billion rupees ($44.6 million) as aid to the island nation for the next fiscal year, according to budget papers presented in Parliament.

Read more: Chinese survey ship in Maldives could trigger security concerns in Indian Ocean

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