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Vineet Ravindran asked: What is India's role in the development of Agalega and Sabang? How does it fit into India's maritime strategy?

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  • Abhay Kumar Singh replies: As one of the most prominent resident naval powers in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), India’s role has been critical to maintaining peace and security in the IOR. While strategic stability in the Indian Ocean matters for all nations, India has a vital stake in the evolution of a stable maritime order in the IOR. India has been conscious of its regional obligations and progressively has shown a willingness to become a ‘preferred security partner’ for the regional countries. India’s vision towards the Indian Ocean has been aptly described by Prime Minister Narendra Modi through the acronym ‘SAGAR’, which stands for ‘Security And Growth for All in the Region’. In line with the SAGAR strategy, India has been providing necessary assistance to the countries in the region for enhancing connectivity along with capacity building and capability enhancement for addressing their security challenges. India’s assistance and support in the infrastructure development of Agalega Island of Mauritius and Sabang Port in Indonesia need to be viewed in this context.

    During the visit of Prime Minister Modi to Mauritius in March 2015, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the two countries for the improvement of sea and air transportation facilities at Agalega Island of Mauritius. The envisaged infrastructure for improving sea and air connectivity at the Outer Island of Mauritius aims to ameliorate the condition of the inhabitants of this remote Island. It will also enhance the capabilities of the Mauritian Defence Forces in safeguarding their interests in the Outer Island. While there have been speculative reports in the media about an Indian military base in Agalega, the Government of Mauritius has categorically denied such reports and reiterated that “there is no agreement between Mauritius and India for the creation of a military base in Agalega.” 

    During the visit of Prime Minister Modi to Indonesia in May 2018, the two sides agreed to upgrade the bilateral relationship from a strategic partnership, which was established in 2005, to a New Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. The two sides agreed to expand bilateral cooperation in the economic, investment and infrastructure fields. During the visit, a decision was taken to set up a joint task force to undertake projects for port-related infrastructure in and around Sabang and to enhance connectivity between the Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India and Provinces in the Sumatra Islands of Indonesia, including Aceh.

    India is assisting in the development of the port-related infrastructure at Sabang and there have been discussions about developing an economic zone around the port. The deep-water port is well-suited to host all kinds of naval vessels, including submarines. The ability to access Sabang, located at the northern tip of Sumatra Island and near the mouth of the Strait of Malacca, will expand India’s ability to monitor the key global maritime chokepoint.

    Posted on 21 October 2022

    Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or the Government of India.