PM Modi, Mauritius PM Jugnauth inaugurate airstrip, jetty in Agaléga | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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PM Modi, Mauritius PM Jugnauth inaugurate airstrip, jetty in Agaléga

Feb 29, 2024 06:27 PM IST

The expanded airstrip and jetty on Agaléga, one of the outer islands of Mauritius, will enhance the country’s ability to monitor its large exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and to counter piracy, terrorism and other illegal activities such as unregulated fishing

New Delhi: India and Mauritius are natural partners to deal with traditional and non-traditional challenges in the Indian Ocean, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said as the two countries inaugurated a strategic airstrip and jetty in the island nation on Thursday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Mauritius counterpart Pravind Jugnauth (Twitter Photo)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Mauritius counterpart Pravind Jugnauth (Twitter Photo)

The expanded airstrip and jetty on Agaléga, one of the outer islands of Mauritius, will enhance the country’s ability to monitor its large exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and to counter piracy, terrorism and other illegal activities such as unregulated fishing.

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Modi and his Mauritian counterpart Pravind Jugnauth jointly inaugurated the airstrip, jetty and six development projects on Agaléga during a video conference. The upgrade of the infrastructure was fully funded with Indian grants.

“Many traditional and non-traditional challenges are emerging in the Indian Ocean region. All these challenges affect our economy. To deal with these, India and Mauritius are natural partners in the field of maritime security,” Modi said, speaking in Hindi.

The two countries are working to ensure security, prosperity and stability in the Indian Ocean and also cooperating in monitoring the EEZ, joint patrolling, hydrography, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, he said.

“Today, the inauguration of the airstrip and jetty at Agaléga will further advance our cooperation. This will also strengthen the blue economy in Mauritius,” Modi said.

Jugnauth pointed to the urgent need to address infrastructural deficiencies in Mauritius in order to bolster capabilities for monitoring the country’s EEZ of 2.3 million sq km. Numerous attempts to upgrade the airstrip, built in the early 1980s, were unsuccessful, and Mauritius sought India’s assistance in 2015.

Mauritius, Modi said, is now in a better position to carry out operations to counter piracy, terrorism and narcotics trafficking, to fight human trafficking, and to combat illegal and unregulated fishing.

Jugnauth also addressed critics in his country, who described the memorandum signed by the two sides to develop facilities at Agaléga as an attempt by India to create a military base. The project satisfies the “principle of mutual benefit” and complies with the “sacrosanct principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

Mauritius will neither relinquish sovereignty over Agalega nor transform the island into a military base, Jugnauth said. “I wish to forcefully deplore and condemn the India-bashing campaign that some people in Mauritius have fomented,” he added.

Modi added, “Our development partnerships are based on the priorities of Mauritius. Be it Mauritius’s needs related to EEZ security or health security, India has always respected the needs of Mauritius.”

The airstrip was extended from 1,300 metres to 3,000 metres to accommodate larger aircraft, while St James Jetty was expanded from 80 metres to 255 metres. Support facilities were built on the island, and all the work was financed entirely by Indian grants.

People familiar with the matter said these facilities in Mauritius, along with the coastal surveillance radar system in the Seychelles, will enable India to enhance the monitoring of crucial sea lanes in the Indian Ocean. The development also comes at a time when the pro-China leadership of the Maldives has downgraded maritime security cooperation with India.

The six community development projects inaugurated on Thursday – a library, a shopping centre, an administrative block, a fish storage facility, two shelters for boat crews, and a community hall – are part of 96 such projects being implemented with grants.

Modi described Mauritius as an important partner of India’s “Neighborhood First” policy and a special partner under the vision of “SAGAR” or Security and Growth for All in the Region. “Being a member of the Global South, we have common priorities,” he said.

The two sides also have modern digital connectivity in the form of initiatives such as Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and the RuPay Card, and India has always been the first responder for Mauritius during the Covid-19 pandemic or an oil spill, Modi said.

He noted that over the past 10 years, credit lines worth about 1 billion dollars and assistance of $400 million have been provided to Mauritius which led to the creation of infrastructure such as a metro project, social housing, ENT hospitals, civil service colleges and sports complexes.

Jugnauth also announced his country’s decision to join the Jan Aushadhi initiative, which will facilitate access to better-quality generic medicines made in India.

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