- Diplomatic ties between India and Seychelles have existed since Seychelles gained independence in 1976.
- A resident high commissioner of India has been in Seychelles since 1987 while Seychelles opened its resident mission in India in 2008.
- Seychelles is central to India’s vision of ‘SAGAR’ – ‘Security and Growth for All in the Region.
- During times of need, India was able to supply essential medicines and 50,000 doses of Made in India vaccines to Seychelles.
- Seychelles was the First African country to receive the Made in India COVID-19 vaccines.
- India has contributed towards the construction of the new Magistrates’ Court Building in Seychelles.
- For strengthening the maritime security of Seychelles, India has handed over a Made-in-India Fast Patrol Vessel to the Seychelles Coast Guard.
- India handed over a Mega Watt solar power plant in Seychelles built with India’s assistance.
- The virtual Summit between the two sides also saw the handing over of 10 High Impact Community Development Projects (HICDPs) implemented by the High Commission of India in collaboration with local bodies and educational and vocational institutions.
- Relations between the two countries have been warm and cordial with regular high-level exchange visits between the countries. These relations have been around a host of sectors including defence, culture, trade and technical cooperation.
- Trade between India and Seychelles amounted to only US$40 million in 2010-11 with the balance of trade heavily in India’s favour.
- Tourism, fishing, petroleum exploration, communications and IT, computer education and pharmaceuticals have been identified as areas of economic cooperation between the two countries.
- Both countries signed a bilateral investment promotion agreement in 2010 and in 2012.
- India extended it a $50-million line of credit and a grant of $ 25 million.
- In 1986, the Indian Navy deployed the INS Vindhyagiri at the Seychelles Port of Victoria to abort an attempted coup against President Rene by Defence Minister Berlouis in what was called Operation Flowers are Blooming.
- India helped avert a further attempted coup by Berlouis in 1986 when Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi lent President René his plane so that he could fly back from an international meeting in Harare to Seychelles.
- In 2009, India acted upon a request of Seychelles and dispatched naval ships to patrol the exclusive economic zone of Seychelles and to guard it against piracy.
- India has provided Seychelles with monetary support and equipment such as Dornier Do 228s and Chetak helicopters for meeting its defence needs.
- The Seychelles government has leased Assumption Island to the Indian Navy to build an overseas base of operations there.
- The Indian Army is helping to renovate the airfield while the navy has taken permission from the Seychelles government to make a new deep sea port by dredging sand for the same instead of using the ruined, old jetty which is already present.
- The residents of the island were relocated to another island with the help of the Indian Government.
- Developing infrastructure on Assumption Island in Seychelles is a key piece in India’s proactive maritime strategy as it counters China’s moves in the Indian Ocean region.
- Developing its infrastructure is regarded as a “strategic asset” in India’s arsenal.
- India has been working on human resource development and capacity building with the Government of Seychelles under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme since the early 1980s.
- India is a medical tourism destination for the Seychellois and the Government of Seychelles has tied up with MIOT Hospitals and Madras Medical Mission in Chennai for providing healthcare to its citizens.
- The two nations have also been working together in the areas of environmental protection and renewable energy and India is to set up a solar power cluster in Seychelles.
Significance of Seychelles to India
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.
- The Indian Diaspora mostly of Tamilian and Gujarati origins represents 8 percent of the Seychelles population.
- India and Seychelles have shared historical socio-cultural ties.
- Further, the Indian Diaspora has been influential in Seychelles and fostered diplomatic ties between the nations
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.
- Seychelles has been a pioneer in advancing the concept of a ‘blue economy, which includes aspects like environment, hydrocarbons, marine economy, renewable energy and exploration of the continental shelf.
- The blue economy also forms part of the economic agenda of the Indian Ocean Commission and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA)
- Since 2015, India and Seychelles have been collaborating in the field of Blue economy. The cooperation will benefit India by:
- Enhancing India’s strategic cooperation in the field of the blue economy;
- Commercial benefits from the export of human resources, expertise and technology
- Increase India’s access to ocean-based resources in cooperation with Seychelles
- 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
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.
Indo-French Maritime Cooperation
- France has a 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 in India-France maritime cooperation
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.
Challenges for Relation
- 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 have risen concerns for India as it tries to limit the growing Chinese presence in the IOR
- Internal issues in Seychelles
- The Assumption Island Project has been halted due to a number of setbacks
- The biggest setback came when the Detailed Project Report (DPR) was leaked on YouTube raising concerns over the nature of the deal
- To remove the fear that the Island was sold off to India and getting amidst the Indo-China dispute, revisions were made to 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
- Chequebook Diplomacy
- India unlike China does not have the 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