18/6/2018 287 India and the world | Foreign Policy of India | View Recent Current Affairs
- Seychelles has called off a deal that would have allowed India to invest $550 million (Rs 3,760 crore) in building a military base on one of its islands.
- India has sought a clarification from Seychelles on this statement.
- The pact with Seychelles was first announced during Narendra Modi’s visit to the strategic Indian Ocean archipelago nation in 2015.
- Many copies of the classified agreement were leaked online, with allegations that the Seychelles government had “sold off” Assumption island to India. The opposition coalition, which holds a majority in the Seychelles Parliament, had opposed the pact. The deal could not have gone through without its support.
- The deal would have helped India ensure the safety of its vessels in the southern Indian Ocean. Indian soldiers would also have been deployed on Assumption island.
- Currently, the remote coral island has a tin shack post office, an airstrip and almost no people, it is less than seven kilometres long, has a high point just 30 metres (100 feet) above sea level and is covered in bird excrement. But its location lends it strategic importance for monitoring shipping in the Mozambique Channel.
- India plans to invest $550 million dollars (446 million euros) in building the base to help it ensure the safety of its vessels in the southern Indian Ocean. It also says the base will be a resource for other shipping nations.
- Assumption is very close to the Mozambique Channel where much of the international trade is transiting, and not just for India but for other countries as well.
- India has had a military cooperation agreement with the Seychelles since 2003 and the deal would give it use of the Assumption base for up to 30 years. Indian soldiers would be deployed on the island and help train Seychelles' troops.
- Indian presence in Seychelles is a sensitive matter. Some fear an influx of Indian workers who, they say, might come to dominate the economy, while others consider a foreign power building a military base an affront to sovereignty and national pride.
- Opponents of the plan also cite Assumption's relative proximity to Aldabra atoll, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is home to the world's largest population of giant tortoises.
- Environmentalists worry about the possible impact of a large military presence so close to an ecosystem that has survived precisely because of the absence of people.