Setback for India as island nation denies permission for military base.
New Delhi: In a major setback to India’s strategic outreach plans, the Seychelles government, giving in to growing opposition in the island nation, has said “no” to the setting up of an Indian military base at Assumption island.
Seychelles President Danny Faure was quoted by the local media as saying the island nation will itself build the base at Assumption island. “In next year’s budget, we will put funds to build a coastguard facility on Assumption ourselves. It is important for us to ensure we have a military post in this area,” he is reported to have said at a press conference.
The President also said the Assumption project will not move forward, nor will the Indian plan for a military base there be part of the agenda of talks between him and Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his India visit that is expected to take place around June 25-26.
The decision comes as India made a flurry of diplomatic moves, including a quiet visit by foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale, to Seychelles on May 14-15 to try and save the deal on the military base.
The mouthpiece of Seychelles’ ruling People’s Party (Parti Lepep) had hinted at sabotage by the Opposition party in a May 26 editorial, which said: “After indicating in India that he supported the project, Opposition leader Wavel Ramkalawan made a U-turn and said that the Seychelles-India agreement is ‘dead’.”
For it to be valid, the pact needed to be ratified by Seychelles’ Cabinet as well as the National Assembly. On ratification, the pact would be valid for 20 years.
While a renegotiated January 27 agreement makes it clear the Indian military would be on Assumption only at Seychelles’ request, such a “facility” would offer strategic advantage to India’s growing ambitions, more so in the backdrop of the growing Chinese interest in the region as well as ability to combat sea piracy in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
India has been trying hard to counter China’s “String of Pearls” strategy, a perceived effort to encircle India commercially and militarily by raising its spheres of influence in India’s neighbourhood. The opposition to the plans for an Indian military base was largely on environmental grounds, fears about an influx of Indians and concerns over sovereignty.