India- Seychelles Relationship

Mains Test Series

Context:

Seychelles President Danny Faure recent visit to India

India- Seychelles Relations

  • India and Seychelles relationship was established in 1976 since its independence.
  • In 1986, India had executed ‘Operation Flowers are Blooming’ in Seychelles in 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 the Seychelles for allowing exchange of information to curb tax evasion
  • Further, India and Seychelles signed an agreement for constructing and operating joint military facility on the 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 ground.
  • However, the project got halted as it could not be ratified by the Seychelles parliament

  • Recently, Seychelles President Danny Faure was on a visit to India. Major takeaways from the visit:
  • Both India and Seychelles agreed to work together on the project to develop a naval base at the Assumption Island
  • India announced a USD 100-million credit to Seychelles for augmenting its defence capabilities
  • 6 MoUs signed:
  1. MoU regarding Indian Grant Assistance for implementation of small development projects through local bodies, educational and vocational institutions.
  2. Twinning Agreement on Establishment of Friendship and Cooperation between Panaji (Municipal Corporation), Goa (India) and Victoria City of Seychelles…
  3. MoU in area of Cyber Security
  4. Cultural Exchange Programme between India and Seychelles for the years 2018-2022.
  5. Technical Agreement on Sharing White Shipping Information between Indian Navy and National Information Sharing and Coordination Center of Seychelles
  6. MoU between Foreign Service Institute (FSI) of Ministry of External Affairs of India and Department of Foreign Affairs of Seychelles

Significance of Seychelles for India

  1. 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.
  1. Indian Diaspora:
  • The Indian Diaspora mostly of Tamilian and Guajarati origins represents 8 percent of the Seychelles population.
  • India and Seychelles has shared historical socio-cultural ties.
  • Further, the Indian Diaspora has been influential in Seychelles and fostered diplomatic ties between the nations
  1. 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.
  1. 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 the part of the economic agenda of the Indian Ocean Commission and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA)
  • Since 2015, India and Seychelles has been collaborating in the field of Blue economy. The cooperation will benefit India by:
  1. Enhancing India’s strategic cooperation in the field of blue economy;
  2. Commercial benefits from export of human resources, expertise and technology
  3. Increase India’s access to ocean-based resources in cooperation with Seychelles
  1. 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
  1. 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.
  1. 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
  1. 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.
  1. 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

  1. 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
  1. 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
  1. 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:

  1. 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
  2. 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.
  3. 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
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