Saturday, January 27, 2018

Eye on China, India ups maritime game by signing agreement with Seychelles

Geeta Mohan New DelhiJanuary 28, 2018UPDATED 08:36 IST

India's Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar


In October 2017, Jaishankar had made an unannounced visit to Seychelles to iron out differences between the two nations.Meanwhile, Seychelles-China cooperation has been growing exponentially.The visit comes at a time when there has been increased engagement by China in this region.

India and Seychelles on Saturday signed a revised agreement for the Development, Management, Operation and Maintenance of Facilities on Assomption Island. Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar and Secretary of State of Seychelles, Barry Faure signed the Agreement.

The visit comes at a time when there has been increased engagement by China in this region with many high level visits, including establishment of a Chinese naval base in Djibouti. A senior official told India Today that the “strategic significance” of this agreement cannot be missed. There is a need to create a balance in the waters of the Indian Ocean, he said.

Foreign Secretary Jaishankar, speaking on the occasion of signing of the agreement reiterated the importance of “maritime security”. A topic that topped the agenda for India even during the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit held in New Delhi on 25 January.

The Indian Foreign Secretary said, “Relations with countries in the Indian Ocean Region and nurturing a climate of peace and stability are important cornerstones of India’s foreign policy. Our vision for the region is based on cooperation and collective action to tackle maritime security challenges.”

The original agreement was signed between Prime Minister Modi and the President of Seychelles in March 2015 to build military infrastructure on Assomption Island, but was faced with roadblocks in Seychelles’ Parliament.

In October 2017, Jaishankar had made an unannounced visit to Seychelles to iron out differences between the two nations over the development of infrastructure on Assumption Island. Meanwhile, Seychelles-China cooperation has been growing exponentially.

Barry Faure, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Seychelles in a tweet said, “Seychelles and India signed the revised Agreement for the Development of Facilities on Assomption today and held productive bilateral cooperation meetings. The process of ratification will ensue. 2018 will see a real acceleration in our cooperation programme.”

With an eye on China, Foreign Secretary Jaishankar sought a climate of “trust” and “transparency” reiterating what Prime Minister Modi had said during his 2015 visit where he emphasised the need to respect international “maritime rules and norms” by all countries. Quoting the PM, Jaishankar said, “We seek a future for Indian Ocean that lives up to the name of ‘SAGAR’ – an acronym that stands for - Security And Growth for All in the Region” (Unquote). SAGAR in Hindi means the Ocean. This SAGAR doctrine succinctly outlines our vision for the region with collaboration as its backbone.”

India and Seychelles have shared a close bond of friendship and given the geo-strategic position of Seychelles, it is important for India that the revised agreement is ratified by Seychelles. Dr. S. Jaishankar said, “Seychelles with its Exclusive Economic Zone spread over 1.3 million square kilometers is particularly vulnerable.” Adding, “Recognising this, India and Seychelles have drawn up a cooperation agenda that covers within its purview shared efforts in anti-piracy operations, and enhanced EEZ surveillance and monitoring to prevent intrusions by potential economic offenders indulging in illegal fishing, poaching, drug and human trafficking.”

Speaking of the historical ties between the two nations, Jaishankar reminded Seychelles how India was present in full force to witness history when “Seychelles was born as a sovereign nation four decades ago. On 29th June 1976 when Seychelles celebrated its independence”

He also added that India will always collaborate with the Government of Seychelles in their “priority” projects. “Our traditional linkages have now culminated into a mutually beneficial relationship based on shared values and commitments to the ideals of democracy and development. India is committed to further expanding its development partnership with Seychelles”, he said.

New Delhi is determined to scale up its relationship with Seychelles to a more strategic, comprehensive partnership to create a balance and counter the growing assertiveness of countries such as China.

The Foreign Secretary of India also called on President of Seychelles, Danny Faure in Victoria and discussed issues of bilateral relations and cooperation between India and Seychelles

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