In recent years, India has extended development cooperation to Seychelles for the construction of a new $ 63.66 million government house, a $13.92 million police headquarters and a $13.38 million attorney general’s office
NEW DELHI: Maritime security and defence cooperation were among the subjects on the table for discussions between India and Seychelles during a two-day visit by Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar that concluded over the weekend.
Enhancing development cooperation from India for the Seychelles, capacity building, trade, tourism and commerce, as well as health in the times of the covid-19 pandemic. were the other issues discussed during Jaishankar’s visit.
Seychelles was the third leg of a three-nation tour by Jaishankar that also saw him visit Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. With India defining the new strategic Indo-Pacific region as lying between the east coast of Africa and the west coast of the United States, New Delhi views the Seychelles as its neighbour.
Jaishankar was seen as the first to arrive in Seychelles for an “in person" visit to the country since the start of the covid-19 pandemic. The main aim of the trip was to establish early contact with the Wavel Ramkalawan government that came into office last month after presidential polls. Ramkalawan, a former Anglican priest of Indian origin, defeated Danny Faure in the October polls to take the Seychelles presidency. It was with Faure’s government that India signed a pact to develop the naval facility on Assumption Island for use by both countries. The plan included the construction of an airstrip and a jetty besides housing infrastructure, all built through an investment of $550 million by India. But opposition from Ramkalawan and his Linyon Demokratik Seselwa party had stalled the project for which an initial pact was signed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2015 visit to Seychelles.
An Indian foreign ministry statement said defence cooperation had been on the agenda of talks between Jaishankar and his counterpart Sylvestre Radegonde, Seychelles’ Minister of Foreign Affairs and Tourism. There was no direct mention of the Assumption Island project.
Jaishankar and Ramkalawan “stressed the need to strengthen shared efforts to combat drug trafficking, IUU (illegal, unreported and unregulated) fishing, piracy and climate change while protecting the ocean ecosystem. They also talked about a wide range of regional issues that impacted on their respective interests," the Indian statement said. Jaishankar also conveyed an invitation to President Ramkalawan to visit India in 2021, it said.
The visiting Indian minister also spoke of “the centrality of Seychelles to India’s vision of SAGAR (Security And Growth for All in the Region) that characterized India’s policy towards the Indian Ocean Region. As a neighbor across waters, Seychelles was very much a part of the Neighborhood First policy as well," it said.
Ramkalawan on his part “valued the development and security partnership between the two countries and spoke of its positive impact on nation building in Seychelles," it added.
News reports from Seychelles said maritime security was a key subject of discussions given that the two countries shared the Indian Ocean.
"We discussed how we should look at enticing, encouraging Indian investors to come to Seychelles. How we can promote tourism in India. India is a vast country, people travel in the millions every year, how we could get them to put Seychelles at the top of their consideration as a tourist destination," Radegonde was quoted as saying by the news reports. He pointed out that currently there was no Indian owned or managed tourism establishment on the islands, the report said.
In recent years, India has extended development cooperation to Seychelles for the construction of a new $ 63.66 million government house, a $13.92 million police headquarters and a $13.38 million attorney general’s office. A magistrate court building project is also under construction in Seychelles for which India extended a cash grant of $3.5 million in June 2017.
The Indian assistance comes in the face of China growing its infrastructure footprint in the Seychelles with the construction of a new media broadcasting facility and the La Gogue Dam Project constructed by Sinohydro Group Ltd to improve water security in case of drought.
“In Seychelles many projects were built by the financing of the grants, including National Swimming Pool, the National Assembly Building, Palais De Justice, the Anse Royale Hospital, the Glacis Primary School and Creche and many other projects," Chinese ambassador to the Seychelles Guo Wei said in an interview to “the Nation" news paper earlier this month.