Unlocking Opportunities: India and Mauritius as Catalysts for Investment and Development in Africa

Prime Minister Modi and his Mauritius counterpart Jugnauth inaugurate infrastructure projects, reaffirming the enduring friendship between India and Mauritius.

India’s PM Modi and Mauritius’ PM Jugnauth Unveil Infrastructure Projects

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister of Mauritius Pravind Jugnauth jointly inaugurated several infrastructure and connectivity projects in the strategic island nation on 29 February. Prime Minister Modi also recalled his promise given to the people of Agalega island, who have been disconnected from the mainland. He even reiterated the catchphrase ‘Modi ki Guarantee’ in the context of India’s fulfilment of promises even in the context of foreign domains of development as India continues to support the developmental aspirations of friendly people in the Global South while becoming their voice at the global stage.

Fighting for their cause in an unjust world has been a major marker of Indian foreign policy. India and Mauritius are crucial and critical in the Indian Ocean Region which is facing increasing traditional and non-traditional threats. As the maritime collaboration continues to expand within and beyond the confines of SAGAR(Security and Growth for All in the Region) doctrine and IORA(Indian Ocean Regional Association) the outreach of India’s non-reciprocal “Neighbourhood First” and “Link Africa Faster” encompasses the fulfillment of developmental aspirations of the Mauritians – 70 per cent of whom are of Indian origin, courtesy the French and British colonialism.

Mauritius since 2005 has been a gateway to foreign direct investment and often aced the charts for the highest investment being routed through Port Louis into India due to a unique Double Taxation Avoidance Treaty and Convention(DTAC). The FDI accounted for over 26 per cent of the total during 2000-2022 amounting to $161 billion. No doubt since its renegotiation the FDI via this route has come down but Port Louis still retains that ease and charm for investors. Trade is also burgeoning to over half a billion dollars.

In the developmental domain too Mauritius takes the larger pie of the cake with high-impact socio-economic, infrastructural and developmental projects let alone a large number of scholarships and capacity-building assistance provided under various Government of India programmes. These have been tailored under India’s Africa policy so succinctly outlined by Prime Minister Modi during his address to the Ugandan parliament in 2018 underscoring that India believes and works for ‘Africa for Africans’ approach and their wishes must be respected.

Projects included the metro to the community centre and developmental projects to social housing, the largest cultural centre, civil services college and the establishment of the World Hindi Secretariat. As Prime Minister Modi said India during the last decade has extended over $1 billion in Lines of Credit and $400 million as grants and assistance.

For New Delhi, Mauritius is ready to play a more significant and dynamic role as a gateway to Africa as the continent moves towards greater integration charting its own course of growth and development including the African Continental Free Trade Agreement(AfCFTA). Since Africa figures prominently in India’s foreign and security policy calculus and naturally and mutually sustaining partnerships, Prime Minister Modi invited Mauritius as a special guest at the G20 Summit last September and successfully engineered the African Union (AU) ‘s inclusion as a permanent member in the G20 making it effectively a G21.

India has also been a first responder and a HADR partner in every contingency Mauritius faced from the extensive medical and vaccine assistance during the pandemic to the Wakashio oil spill accident in 2020. Even this time the Prime Minister of Mauritius has agreed to follow the Indian model in digital public infrastructure like RuPay card and UPI as well as the first country to set up an Aushadhi Centre on a similar pattern as in India’s Jan Aushadhi Scheme (JAS).

Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Jugnauth virtually inaugurated the St James jetty an airstrip and six other high-impact developmental projects to cater to the needs of the people of Agalega who will now be able to have direct and reliable connectivity with the mainland thereby ensuring aerial, maritime and digital connectivity within Mauritius. This collaborative effort reflects the deep-rooted partnership between the two nations in addressing various challenges in the Indian Ocean region, both leaders underscored.

Mauritius is also important from the point of view of maritime strategic calculations. New Delhi has been rendering all possible assistance including joint monitoring and preventing and countering threats in the maritime domain including its extensive and Extended Economic Zone (EEZ). India has always respected the territorial integrity of Mauritius and has stood for it. The case of the Chagos Islands (Diego Garcia) and the Mauritian sovereignty against the British claims over them, is a case in point.

In this context Prime Minister Jugnauth, speaking in Creole to his people, wanted to dispel the opposition spreading vicious rumours in his country regarding the Indian desire for a military base in Mauritius while highlighting Indian help and assistance in fulfilling their developmental objectives.

Likewise, Prime Minister Modi reiterated that “Various traditional and non-traditional challenges are emerging in the Indian Ocean region. These challenges impact our economic systems. India and Mauritius are natural partners in the maritime domain to deal with these challenges.” He added, “Mauritius and India are actively working towards ensuring security, prosperity, and stability in the Indian Ocean region.” This collaboration acquires greater salience as this maritime domain becomes increasingly contested with the Chinese hegemonistic overtures and enterprise, where India remains a resident power and security of Sea Lanes of Communications (SLOCs) is of paramount importance, which has been evident during the Houthis attacks on shipping and piracy in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.

Anil Trigunayat, is a former Indian Ambassador to Jordan, Libya and Malta, and currently heads the West Asia Experts Group at Vivekananda International Foundation.

The article was first published in Firstpost. as ‘India and Mauritius: Gateways to Africa, investment and development‘ on March 1, 2024.

Disclaimer: All views expressed in the article belong solely to the author and not necessarily to the organisation.

Read more at IMPRI: MPCE Data: Aesthetic Appeal with Substantial Insights

Acknowledgement: This article is posted by Mansi Garg , a researcher at IMPRI.