Days after India reset its relations with 14 Pacific Island countries, Seychelles, a key power in the Indian Ocean, declared it might join a India-led trilateral security framework that also includes Sri Lanka and Maldives.
On a visit to India, President James Alix Michel, president of Seychelles told a select audience at the Indian Council for World Affairs (ICWA), “With regards to safeguarding maritime domain, Seychelles is actively considering invitation by the Indian government to join the tripartite maritime security framework which encompasses India, Sri Lanka and Maldives.” In words that would be music to Indian ears, Michel asserted that the Indian Ocean region “belongs” to countries sharing maritime boundaries here. “…
One thing that Seychelles does recognize is that Indian Ocean belongs to us. It belongs to the countries in the region. In terms of peace, security and stability these are questions we must look in terms of the presence of foreign forces, foreign naval forces, and foreign countries in our region… In terms of geopolitics we need an ocean that is free from politics. We also recognize the right of other countries to be present and work with us in terms of economic prosperity and in the concept of blue economy,” Seychelles foreign minister Joel Morgan said.
“We cannot leave it to others to secure our maritime space. The need is more relevant than ever. Today we have with India an exemplary partnership in defence and security sectors. India’s determined and proactive action in fight against piracy is highly commendable,” Michel said.
Modi had made Seychelles one of the stops in his big Indian Ocean foray in March. India has extended the Indian Ocean security framework by inviting Mauritius and Seychelles to the last meeting as observers. That outreach has been strengthened by the Narendra Modi government. In fact, as Maldives becomes a less stable nation in a crucial part of the world, India is hoping to invest more in Seychelles and Mauritius, to offset the difficulties created by Maldives.
Although during a recent visit by the Maldives foreign secretary, the Maldivian president, Abdulla Yameen asserted that he would not let a new land law affect the security of the Indian Ocean region, India is clearly hedging its bets. Seychelles too has a close relationship with China but India is betting on its growing presence and interest in the Indian Ocean country.
Both with the Pacific island countries and in the Indian Ocean region, India is pushing the mantra of the “blue economy” to expand its partnerships. From Fiji to Nauru and Tuvalu, New Delhi has opened up travel opportunities to India by giving them gratis visas.
India has big attractions in terms of helping these countries build capacities, both human as well as in agriculture and marine activities. Fiji officials said India’s innovations are cheaper and easier to adapt to their conditions. “With a little investment, India can achieve a lot,” they said. The same goes for Seychelles, which is an enthusiastic user of India’s pan-African e-network, particularly for medical diagnosis. (Times Of India)