New Delhi pins its prestige on Mauritius project


What is Important?UPSC perspective:Prelims:Location & highlightsMains:Objectives,Background & Significance


Why in News?

As work gets under way on one of India’s prize projects in the Indian Ocean to upgrade facilities on the Agalega islands in Mauritius, the government is watching a battle brewing in the Mauritius parliament over the project. 

About Agalega:

*Agalega are two outer islands of Mauritius located in the Indian Ocean, about 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) north of Mauritius island.
* The population of the islands as at July 2011 was estimated at 300.The islands have a total area of 2,600 hectares.
* The North island is 12.5 km long and 1.5 km wide, while the South island is 7 km long and 4.5 km wide. The North Island is home to the islands' airstrip and the capital Vingt Cinq.
* The islands are known for their coconuts, the production of which is their main industry, and for the Agalega day gecko.
* This island is leased to Indian Military for the development of strategic assets.
* The Head of Mauritius Navy and the Mauritian National Security Advisor are Indian officers.

Background:

*In 2015, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi had witnessed the signing of the agreement for Agalega Islands, the MoU had provided for “setting up and upgradation of infrastructure for improving sea and air connectivity” and enhancing “capabilities of the Mauritian Defence Forces in safeguarding their interests in the Outer Island.
*However, since then, there have been growing reports over the Indian Naval and Coast Guard’s interests in setting up transponder systems and surveillance infrastructure, which has led to some local protests.
*In March this year, several islanders, including some from Agalega, which has a tiny population of 300, formed the “Koalision Zilwa Pou Lape” (Islanders Coalition for Peace), to lobby against the Agalega project. 

Objectives:

*The $87 million project, to be funded by India, has been awarded to two Indian companies: AFCON construction group and RITES engineering consultancy.
*Surveys have begun to fulfil the contract signed on September 28 this year, which stipulated that construction begin by February 12, 2019, and be completed in 2021.

Way forward:

*India needs to project itself as a credible and long term partner in a more persuasive manner, than what has been the experience in recent years.
*Islands in the Indian Ocean Region have acquired distinctive strategic relevance and India will have to step up its appeal and comfort index, more so since it is pitted against China’s deep pockets.

New Delhi pins its prestige on Mauritius project New Delhi pins its prestige on Mauritius project Reviewed by The Hindu Current Affairs on October 28, 2018 Rating: 5

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