First ‘Assumption’ Ditching, Now an Embrace 

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IR and Diplomacy  ->  Indian Diplomacy

Topic :  GS Paper 2 - Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India's interests

The India-Seychelles relationship is on a roller coaster ride. First, the ditching of the proposed Indian Naval base in the Assumption Island and now an embrace from India towards its Indian Ocean neighbor.

The Background

For India, the Mozambique channel on the east coast of Africa is an important area of concern. The rising economic growth of Africa provides an ample opportunity for India to increase its trade with the continent and Mozambique channel plays a crucial role. Already, India has improved trade relations with Mozambique in the form of coal, pulses and other commodity imports.

Also, the channel has become a security concern an India wants to maintain a position of net security provider to the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) countries. It was even mentioned in India’s Maritime Security Strategy of 2015.

To this extent, India chose Assumption Island of Seychelles which is close to the Mozambique Channel as a place to monitor the security scenario. Both India and Seychelles signed an agreement in March 2015 to build a Naval base on the island to be managed by both the countries. Once operational it would have become India’s first offshore naval base. Already China has started its offshore naval base in Djibouti raising concerns among Indian security establishment.

For the naval base to become operational the Seychelles Parliament has to ratify it. But owing to lack of majority to the current Seychelles government, the ratification had been turned down. Also, the role of China is being suspected in ditching of the project by Seychelles.

The Issue in News

With the low of Seychelles loss of interest in the project, the visit of the island nation’s President to India in June 2018, things are on an upswing.

The major outcome of the visit is that the two countries have agreed to work on the naval base keeping in mind the concerns of each other.

Adding to this, the Indian government has extended a defence outreach to the island nation with a $100 million credit to purchase defence equipment from India. Also, the country has gifted a Dornier maritime patrol aircraft to Seychelles as a goodwill gesture.

With the embrace from India, it is expected that the bilateral partnership will be normalized and India can achieve its security targets in the region.

Other Highlights of the Visit

Six pacts were signed by the two countries.

  • A cyber security agreement
  • White shipping agreement between the two navies
  • India’s Grant assistance for implementation of small development projects
  • Capacity-building related to security issues
  • A Friendship and Cooperation agreement between the Corporation of the City of Panaji (Municipal Corporation) and the City of Victoria of the Republic of Seychelles
  • Cultural exchange programme