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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

  • 09 April, 2021

  • 8 Min Read

India-Seychelles Virtual Meet

India-Seychelles Virtual Meet

Recently, the Prime Minister of India will take part in a high-level virtual event with the President of the Republic of Seychelles & jointly inaugurated several Indian projects in Seychelles.

Major Highlights

  • Seychelles is central to India’s vision of ‘SAGAR’ – ‘Security and Growth for All in the Region.
  • During times of need, India was able to supply essential medicines and 50,000 doses of Made in India vaccines to Seychelles.
  • Seychelles was the First African country to receive the Made in India COVID-19 vaccines.
  • India has contributed to the construction of the new Magistrates Court Building in Seychelles.
  • For strengthening the maritime security of Seychelles, India has handed over a Made-in-India Fast Patrol Vessel to the Seychelles Coast Guard.
  • India handed over a One Mega Watt solar power plant in the Seychelles built with India’s assistance.
  • The virtual Summit between the two sides also saw the handing over of 10 High Impact Community Development Projects (HICDPs) implemented by the High Commission of India in collaboration with local bodies and educational and vocational institutions.

India- Seychelles Relations- Background

  • India and Seychelles' relationship was established in 1976 after its independence.
  • In 1986, India executed ‘Operation Flowers are Blooming’ in Seychelles at the request of the erstwhile President Rene to avert a coup

India’s Assistance to Seychelles:

  • Two petrol vessels – the Tarmugli (2006) and the Tarasa (2014) – were gifted by India to the Seychelles government to augment surveillance and patrolling capacity of Seychelles
  • India has provided Seychelles with equipment such as Dornier Do 228s and Chetak helicopters as part of the maritime security arrangement against terrorism and piracy
  • In 2012, India had pledged US $ 50 million as Line of Credit and US$ 25 million as grant to the Government of Seychelles
  • Further, India and Seychelles collaborate for conducting hydrographic surveys, and launched a coastal surveillance radar project- Coastal Surveillance Radar System (CSRS).
  • In August 2015 India signed a taxation agreement with Seychelles for allowing the exchange of information to curb tax evasion
  • Further, India and Seychelles signed an agreement for constructing and operating a joint military facility on Assumption Island, situated to the north of Madagascar. The deal was to include 30-year access to the base as well as permission to station Indian military personnel on the ground.
  • However, the project got halted as it could not be ratified by the Seychelles parliamenthttps://i0.wp.com/blog.forumias.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/str.png?resize=557%2C476&is-pending-load=1

Significance of Seychelles for India

Access to Africa and Pan-African e-network Project:

  • Seychelles provides a link to East African countries with whom India historically had socio-economic ties and at present forms a large market for Indian firms.
  • Seychelles is a part of the Pan African e-Network project between India and the African Union that seeks to connect the 53 member states of the African Union through a satellite and fibre optic network to India and to each other. The project seeks to enable access to and sharing of expertise between India and African states, particularly in the medical and education field.

Indian Diaspora:

  • The Indian Diaspora mostly of Tamilian and Gujarati origins represents 8 per cent of the Seychelles population.
  • India and Seychelles have shared historical socio-cultural ties.
  • Further, the Indian Diaspora has been influential in Seychelles and fostered diplomatic ties between the nations

Trade and Energy Security:

  • Seychelles is located in close proximity to the oil sea lanes and oil-producing nations. These sea lanes are vital for India’s external trade and energy security.

Blue Economy:

  • Seychelles has been a pioneer in advancing the concept of ‘blue economy, which includes aspects like environment, hydrocarbons, marine economy, renewable energy and exploration of continental shelf.
  • The blue economy also forms part of the economic agenda of the Indian Ocean Commission and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA)
  • Since 2015, India and Seychelles have been collaborating in the field of Blue economy. The cooperation will benefit India by:
  • Enhancing India’s strategic cooperation in the field of blue economy;
  • Commercial benefits from export of human resources, expertise and technology
  • Increase India’s access to ocean-based resources in cooperation with Seychelles

Trade and Commerce:

  • India is an important trading partner of Seychelles with a valuation of approximately 34.6 million USD as total trade
  • Indian companies have been active on the island nation since 1978 and the local bus transportation in capital is run by TATA and Ashok Leyland.
  • Seychelles’s mobile network is run by the Indian mobile network Airtel
  • Seychelles banking services are developed by the Indian software company – Polaris Software Lab.
  • Indian exports to Seychelles between 2015 and 2016 were around 0.02% (USD 32.56 million dollars) of total India’s exports. Imports stood at USD 1.17 million.
  • The major products of exports to Seychelles are motor cars and vehicles, cereals, medicaments and insulated wires and cables

Strategic foothold in Indian Ocean Region:

  • The Assumption Island in Seychelles and Agalega in the Mauritius along with India’s listening post in Madagascar are strategically important for India in the Indian Ocean Region.
  • India can effectively monitor the activities of foreign navies in the Indian Ocean region with the development of a naval base in the region
  • Further, the growing Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean Region highlights the need for having a strong foothold in the region and Seychelles is crucial for it. A naval base in Assumption Island of the Seychelles will help India limit the increasing presence of China in the region.

Indo-French Maritime Cooperation:

  • France has historical foothold and an influential Diaspora in Seychelles. Further, France has renewed its security cooperation with Seychelles. France has offered support in capability building and managing maritime security threats
  • India and France have common interests in Indian Ocean Region and Seychelles can play an important node for India-France maritime cooperation

Security Issues:

  • East African nations have struggled to keep up with the rapidly evolving maritime security scenarios.
  • There is growing menace of piracy off the Mozambique coast which is an important channel for trade destined for and from the Indian Ocean Region. The issue of piracy has also adversely affected Indian trade along the route.
  • India and Seychelles has coastal surveillance radar project. The project aims at better management and responding to maritime security threats.

UN Permanent Seat:

  • Having good diplomatic ties with Seychelles might help in securing Seychelles vote which will further add to India’s claim for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council.

Issues and Challenges

The China Factor:

  • Recently, the Indian Ocean Region has become increasingly contested. China has secured diplomatic, military, and economic arrangements with countries such as Bangladesh, Maldives, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Pakistan
  • India is concerned over encirclement by China through the strategy referred to as the “string of pearls” initiative.
  • The increasing Chinese ties with Seychelles has risen concerns for India as it tries to limit growing Chinese presence in the IOR

Internal issues in Seychelles

  • The Assumption Island Project has halted due to a number of setbacks
  • The biggest setback came when Detailed Project Report (DPR) was leaked on YouTube raising concerns over the nature of the deal
  • To remove fear that the Island was sold off to India and getting amidst Indo-China dispute, revisions were made in the deal. The revised deal included clarifications about the non-use of the facility for war purposes
  • However, protests over the deal continued and it faced much political opposition. As a result, the deal was not ratified in the Seychelles Parliament

Chequebook Diplomacy

  • India unlike China does not have economic leverage to deploy its resources as been manifested by the latter through its Belt Road Initiative and other interventions witnessed in Africa and South Asian countries

Way Forward:

  • India’s assistance to Sechyelles in the areas from defence, human capacity building, tourism and infrastructure is accordance to SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) initiative which aims to ensure free, open and inclusive Indian Ocean Region
  • Seychelles is an integral part of the Project Mausam-which aims to restore India’s ancient maritime routes and cultural links with nations in the Indian Ocean Region. This furthers India’s formidable stand to counter China’s growing presence in the region.
  • Through various initiatives India has been engaging diplomatically, economically and strategically with Seychelles and other Island nations to keep its foothold in the Indian Ocean Region intact.

Source: PIB


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