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India eyes holistic bond with Seychelles president visit

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India eyes holistic bond with Seychelles president visit

By Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury

NEW DELHI: India, determined to safeguard its strategic interests in the Indian Ocean Region, is reaching out in a major way to visiting Seychelles President Danny Faure, who will be hosted for five days across four cities -- Panaji, Ahmedabad, Dehra Dun, besides New Delhi – beginning Sunday.

The Modi government will extend key support for development projects in Seychelles amid opposition outcry about Seychelles cancelling the Assumption Island deal. India was to get 20-year access to the base, as well as permission to station some military personnel on ground with facilities on the island funded by India, owned by the Seychelles and jointly managed by both sides in exchange for developing the Assumption Island.

While during the presidential trip to Goa, Panaji will be twined with Seychelles capital Mahe in a city twining project. Faure is expected to address the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad. In Dehradun, the visiting president will be familiarised with agricultural technology that can be replicated in his island state.

This is Faure’s second visit to India since March but the first ever state visit. He is, however, no stranger to India having visited the country as vice-president in the past. When he met PM Modi in April in London on the side lines of the Commonwealth Summit, Faure he is understood to have narrated in detail the difficulties he faced in getting parliamentary approval for the MoU for proposed joint project in the Assumption Island .

The visit is also expected to strengthen India's position as the key strategic player in Seychelles – one that has been supplying 60 per cent of defence equipment, training senior members of Seychelles Defence Force and providing support through military advisers for decades. Indian defence equipment supplied to Seychelles included naval ships and Dornier aircraft. India gifted and installed six coastal surveillance radar systems in Seychelles in 2015 enabling better coastal security for Seychelles.

Away from the public glare India shares a unique position in Seychelles since the Indian Ocean Country gained independence in 1976 and then PM Indira Gandhi visited Mahe in the same year, an expert on the region told ET. Military relations between India and Seychelles run deep from the days of non-alignment similar on the lines of India-Mauritius security partnership in the Indian Ocean Region and India is making all efforts to maintain its special position without ceding any ground to any extra-regional power, hinted the person quoted above.

The Indo-Seychelles defence partnership was upgraded at the height of anti-piracy operations beginning with 2009-10, ET has learnt. Seychelles is keen for Indian assistance to control drug trafficking in the region around Mozambique Channel and the proposed joint project in the Assumption Island is a step in that direction.

India has been providing big support to improve transportation with supply of buses, housing and retail sectors in Seychelles and Faure’s visit would help strengthen support to the infrastructure and health sectors in the Indian Ocean Region country. Delhi has also come forward in assisting Seychelles with a huge EEZ in developing Blue Economy and conducting a hydrographic survey.

Lines of Credit (LoC) at concessional rates have been extended to Seychelles since early 1980s. During the presidential visit from India in 2012, a LoC of $ 50 Million and a grant of $ 25 million were announced. By 2017, this grant had been nearly utilised by Seychelles in procuring buses, medicines, medical equipment, police uniform, IT equipment, stationery and police vehicles.

Source: The Economic Times

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