India extends $136m in credit to Seychelles

Seychelles President Danny Faure (left) and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi with a model of a Dornier aircraft.
Seychelles President Danny Faure (left) and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi with a model of a Dornier aircraft.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

It also offers surveillance aircraft in bid to woo island nation as a strategic partner

India has offered US$100 million (S$136 million) in credit for maritime security and a second Dornier surveillance aircraft to Seychelles, in efforts to woo the island archipelago as a strategic partner in the Indian Ocean.

The offer was made yesterday during Seychelles President Danny Faure's first state visit to India and comes after a recent setback, when opposition parties in the island archipelago rejected India's proposal to build naval facilities on Assumption Island.

Mr Faure, who has been in office since 2016, was given a ceremonial welcome at the President's house before he held talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been trying to reach out to island nations and bolster India's presence in the Indian Ocean amid the growing assertiveness of China.

"India and Seychelles are major strategic partners. We respect the core values of a democracy and share the geostrategic vision to maintain the peace, security and stability in the Indian Ocean," Mr Modi said in a statement after talks.

Six agreements were signed between the two sides, including assistance from India in small developmental projects.

Ties between India and Seychelles have been good, with longstanding cooperation in the defence sector. India donated a Coast Guard's Fast Interceptor Boat in 2016, the first Dornier maritime surveillance aircraft in 2013, and installed six coastal surveillance radar systems in Seychelles.

But its plan to build naval facilities on one of Seychelles' 115 islands will not materialise. The opposition, which holds a majority in the National Assembly, argued it would be an assault on the nation's sovereignty.

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Questions are being raised about Mr Modi and his foreign policy towards smaller island states and whether India has lost the plot.

MR ABHIJIT SINGH, head of maritime policy initiative at the Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation.

The rejection of the proposal was seen within the strategic community as a setback for Indian's aspirations in the Indian Ocean.

Mr Modi's efforts to build relationships with smaller island nations in the region have suffered some setbacks. Ties with the Maldives took a turn for the worse after India criticised Maldives' President Abdulla Yameen's treatment of the opposition.

China, on the other hand, has strengthened its ties with the Maldives and Sri Lanka, which last December handed over to Chinese companies its Hambantota port on a 99-year lease.

Experts said Mr Faure's visit to India is important not just for bilateral ties but also for New Delhi's Indian Ocean diplomacy.

"Questions are being raised about Mr Modi and his foreign policy towards smaller island states and whether India has lost the plot," said Mr Abhijit Singh, head of maritime policy initiative at the Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation. "What's happened in Seychelles is certainly a setback. India was expecting to build this facility for Seychelles and gain access to it."

Mr Faure indicated the two countries would continue to discuss Assumption Island, saying the main thrust of his visit was to emphasise the strong relationship that exists between their two nations.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2018, with the headline 'India extends $136m in credit to Seychelles'. Print Edition | Subscribe