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India’s Strategic Investment In Africa: Countering China’s Influence


While the international spotlight shines on China’s increasing presence in Africa, India has quietly and assertively been making a strategic move in the region. The focus of this endeavor is a naval base on the remote Agaléga islands of Mauritius. This seemingly tranquil oasis in the Indian Ocean is undergoing a significant transformation, reflecting India’s ambition to extend its influence in the southwest Indian Ocean and counterbalance China’s growing presence.

China Trying to Build an Atlantic Naval Base | China Naval Bases

A Remote Oasis in the Indian Ocean

The Agaléga islands, nestled in the lap of Mauritius, have long remained a pristine sanctuary, untouched by the clamor of tourism and industry. Home to around 300 residents, these islands have sustained themselves through traditional practices, relying on coconuts and fish. Yet, beneath this tranquil facade, a seismic transformation has taken place.

India’s Strategic Makeover

In a region housing some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, India has upgraded its facilities on these remote islands. Previously, the islands possessed a single dock for fishing boats and a small airfield. However, in 2021, India constructed a substantial airstrip and jetty on Agaléga’s larger northern island. This new airstrip is capable of handling Boeing P-8I surveillance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft of the Indian Armed Forces. This development signifies India’s determination to extend its influence in the southwest Indian Ocean, solidifying its maritime presence.

Countering China’s Reach

One of the primary motivations behind India’s strategic move is to counter China’s increasing presence in the region. Over the past 25 years, China has been steadily expanding its footprint, raising concerns in Indian security circles. China’s sole overseas military base in Djibouti, and the ports it has developed in regions like Pakistan and Sri Lanka, are closely monitored by the Indian government. Maritime concerns, including piracy, smuggling, and terrorism, have taken center stage in these apprehensions, emphasizing the need for authority and enforcement of international maritime laws.

Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, the Indian Foreign Minister, highlights these concerns: “From an Indian point of view, I would say it’s very reasonable for us to try and prepare for a greater Chinese presence than we have seen before. Maritime concerns are not necessarily today between two countries. If you look at maritime threats, piracy, smuggling, or terrorism, if there is no authority, no monitoring, no force out there to actually enforce the rule of the law, it’s a problem.”

While the world watched China, India quietly built a naval base in Africa – Military  Africa

The Agaléga Base’s Role and India’s Strategic Posture

The newly established Agaléga base serves several critical functions for India. It supports surveillance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft, strengthens maritime patrols over the Mozambique Channel, and offers a strategic vantage point for observing shipping routes around southern Africa. Samuel Bashfield, a research officer at the Australian National University’s National Security College, notes, “This base on Agaléga will cement India’s presence in the southwest Indian Ocean and facilitate its power projection aspirations in this region.”

India’s move to strengthen its presence in the southwest Indian Ocean is part of a broader geopolitical strategy, allowing India to monitor its interests effectively and counterbalance China’s growing influence. Despite framing these facilities as a development priority to improve sea and air connectivity and support the Mauritius Coast Guard, they undeniably enhance India’s surveillance, maritime awareness, and staging capabilities.

Global Implications

Beyond regional dynamics, the rivalry between India and China in Africa has far-reaching geopolitical implications. Africa plays a pivotal role in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), encompassing 46 African nations. China’s economic and military consolidation on the continent could fundamentally shift global dynamics, challenging the dominance of the United States and sidelining Europe.

The Atlantic Frontier and Africa as a Forward Base

China’s naval base in Djibouti provides a strategic foothold in the Indian Ocean, and other African nations with significant financial ties to Beijing present opportunities for China to establish military presence on the Atlantic. US officials have warned about China’s plans to establish a permanent military installation in Equatorial Guinea, signaling a new phase in China’s Africa policy and holding far-reaching geopolitical implications.

China’s extensive economic influence in Africa, supported by approximately 10,000 Chinese enterprises, has provided a solid foundation for its geopolitical moves on the continent. Extending its military presence, China has managed to avoid widespread international backlash. If China continues to consolidate its presence across Africa, the continent could serve as a forward base from which China could project power toward North America and Europe.

India Holds First Trilateral Naval Exercise With Tanzania, Mozambique;  Focus On Western Indian Ocean As China Invests In Dual Use Infra

India’s Contribution to Maritime Security

India has actively contributed to maritime security in the region. It has equipped the Mauritius Coast Guard with radar surveillance stations and delivered advanced helicopters to enhance their capabilities. India’s commitment to preserving its interests in the region and countering China’s influence is evident through these initiatives. In the evolving power dynamics of the Indian Ocean, India’s silent rise should not be underestimated.


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