Show gratitude to India, Mauritius PM tells oppn as Agalega Island row adds to snooping fire

New Delhi: Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth has criticized the opposition for “casting suspicion on India” in the context of the island’s controversial Agalega Island and allegations of an Indian military base being established.

This comes amid a furious prowling feud that has dragged New Delhi right into the eye of a storm in the African country. Last week was India caught in a charge after Sherry Singh, former CEO of Mauritius Telecom, resigned, alleging that Jugnauth forced him to allow an “Indian team” access to a facility, with the aim of installing a “sniffing device”.

While opposition parties in Mauritius have united there against the government, accusing Jugnauth of “high treasonand seeking his resignation, India remained silent on the matter and chose to align with Prime Minister Jugnauth’s statements.

During Question Time in the Mauritian Parliament on Thursday, Jugnauth said: “We know that India has assisted Mauritius since our independence to help us develop our economy, improve and modernize infrastructure, improve community amenities and improve the quality of the lives of our citizens.”

He added: “This has been made possible thanks to our special relationship and partnership with India, which has been consolidated over time by this government. We should be grateful to India rather than cast suspicion on a true partnership.”

The Prime Minister answered questions put to him by the leader of the opposition Xavier Luc Duval on the island of Agalega and the presence of “foreign military personnel” there. Duval also asked the prime minister about the alleged plan to station the Poseidon B737, an anti-submarine aircraft, there.

Duval went on to say that he does not “suspect” India, but the prime minister.

In 2015, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the Indian Ocean island nation, India and Mauritius signed a bilateral agreement to develop sea and air connections on the island of Agalega.

At the signing of the agreement, the foreign ministry had said that the development of the island of Agalega “will increase the capabilities of the Mauritian armed forces to protect their interests on the outer island”.

However, the move was seen as an attempt by India to thwart China’s challenges in the Indian Ocean as Beijing planned to expand its influence in the region by building ports in the maritime domain under a proposed ‘Pearl necklace‘ plan.

Thus, the issue became controversial, as some said India was in fact building military base on the island of Agalega to monitor China as part of Modi’s Indian Ocean vision of ‘Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR)’.

OOn Thursday, Jugnauth again denied allegations that the island had been turned into a military base.

The Mauritian Prime Minister also said that “a confidentiality clause stipulates that the details of the agreement will not be made public. But the funding for this project is provided free of charge by the Indian government”.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said during a media briefing on Thursday that the government of Mauritius has responded, including at the Prime Minister’s level, on the matter. “We have no further information to share on this matter at this time.”

On a meeting held by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the Attorney General and the Minister of Agro-Industry and Food Security of Mauritius, Maneesh Gobin, of Mauritius – as the allegations swirl around – Bagchi said: “I seem to recall briefly that this meeting took place. This was part of the regular consultation.”

Also read: How fear of Chinese digital espionage ‘involved RAW in Mauritius led to snooping scandal’

Snooping row, mystery surrounding India’s ‘snorman’ deepened

The Agalega project is not expected to start before 2024, as indicated by Prime Minister Jugnauth.

However, opposition parties there have put it back in the spotlight due to the growing sniffing controversy and the mystery surrounding the Indian “moustache”, presumably the leader of the Indian technical team that went to Mauritius to access to a highly sensitive internet landing station.

Things took a different turn this week when it emerged that Lilram Deal, head of Mauritius’ counter-terrorism unit, Reportedly Gift during the visit of the team of technical experts from India.

A l’express report stated: that some embassies in Mauritius, including the US embassy there, to be “Following this case very closely to better understand what happened and whether there has been an infringement of internet freedom”.

Meanwhile, two prominent activists in Mauritius have filed a complaint complaint of conspiracy against Prime Minister Jugnauth, and demonstrations against him continue for allow the Indian team allegedly accessing sensitive data at the SAFE (South Africa, Far East) cable station in Baie-du-Jacotet, a restricted area.

(Edited by Gitanjali Das)

Also read: ‘State can’t get free entry every time’ – SC forms panel to investigate allegations of Pegasus snooping

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