While India will build, maintain, and operate the base, the ownership rights will vest with Seychelles.
New Delhi: Admitting publicly for the first time perhaps that India’s plans for setting up a naval-military base in the 12 sq km big Assumption island in Seychelles in the Indian Ocean has indeed suffered a setback, the mouthpiece of the ruling party has alleged that Seychelles’ Opposition party leader did a “U-turn” on the project after having initially agreed to it.
An editorial article published on Friday in The People, the newspaper of the ruling People’s Party (Parti Lepep), talks about Seychelles’s ongoing progress despite hindrances being posed by the Opposition Linyon Demo-kratik Seselwa (LDS).
In that context, the article said: “What is obvious however is that because of the Opposition’s sabotage efforts, many projects are being affected… The first that comes to mind is the Coast guard facility on Assumption Island. After indicating in India that he supported the project, Opposition leader Wavel Ramkalawan has made a U-turn and said that to him that the Seychelles-Indo agreement is ‘dead’.”
“The facility that was to monitor illicit activities in the southern Indian Ocean, such as drug trafficking, piracy and unlawful fishing is now being held up,” it added.
While the January 27 agreement between Barry Faure, Seychelles secretary of state for foreign affairs, and S. Jaishankar, Indian foreign secretary, makes it clear that the Indian military would be on Assumption only at Seychelles’ request, such a ‘facility’ would offer strategic advantage to India’s growing ambitions especially in the backdrop of growing Chinese interest in the region as well as ability to combat sea piracy in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
To be valid, the agreement has to be ratified by India’s Union Cabinet and by Seychelles’ Cabinet of ministers as well as by the National Assembly. On ratification, the pact would be valid for 20 years.
While India will build, maintain, and operate the base, the ownership rights will vest with Seychelles. India will also at its own cost train the deployed Seychellois military personnel and also conduct joint military exercises.
In a bid perhaps to assuage strong feelings in the Opposition, on March 27, India had announced a clutch of sops for the island nation, including committed financial support for five civilian projects in Seychelles, 71 Tata buses for the Seychelles Public Transport Corpor-ation and 10 ambulances.