INDIA on Wednesday moved towards building strategic assets in two Indian Ocean countries, Mauritius and Seychelles, as New Delhi signed agreements with them to develop “infrastructure” in two islands — one each in both nations.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting the top leadership of the two countries on Wednesday, New Delhi firmed up plans towards building strategic assets in Agalega in Mauritius and Assumption in Seychelles.
In Mauritius, India signed an MoU for the “improvement in sea and air transportation facilities” at Agalega island. This pact provides for “setting up and upgradation of infrastructure for improving sea and air connectivity at the Outer Island of Mauritius which will go a long way in ameliorating the condition of the inhabitants of this remote Island. These facilities will enhance the capabilities of the Mauritian Defence Forces in safeguarding their interests in the Outer Island,” a note on the MoU said.
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The agreement was signed between MEA secretary (west) Navtej Sarna and Mauritius’s Cabinet Secretary Sateeaved Seebaluck in the presence of Modi and Mauritius PM Anerood Jugnauth in Port Louis.
Agalega, located 1,100 km north of Mauritius, is spread over 70 sq km and is closer to India’s southern coast. India has been working towards bagging the rights to develop the island for a few years.
Late premier Indira Gandhi had visited the country in 1981.
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In Seychelles, India inked a pact to develop the infrastructure of Assumption island, one of the 115 islands that constitute the country. Spread over 11 sq km, it is strategically located in the Indian Ocean, north of Madagascar.
“Our agreement today on the development of infrastructure in the Assumption island gives a strong boost to this partnership,” Modi said after witnessing the signing of the agreement with Seychelles President James Alix Michel.
While the island will be leased for “development of infrastructure”, it is being seen as a move towards developing assets in the country, which is on the crucial Indian Ocean.
“Island development” is an internationally accepted euphemism for developing strategic assets. US and China are known to be developing infrastructure in islands all over the world.
India also agreed to help Seychelles in mapping its hydrology reserves, launched a coastal surveillance radar project, and boost security cooperation with the island nation. Modi also announced that India will give a second Dornier maritime patrol aircraft to Seychelles and provide free visas for three months for its citizens and making it available to them on arrival.
He also launched the Coastal Surveillance Radar Project, describing it as another symbol of cooperation between the two countries.
Amid increasing Chinese focus on the Indian Ocean, India is aiming to pitch in with all help to island nations like Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka. Later on Wednesday, Modi arrived in Mauritius on the second leg of his three-nation tour that will also take him to Sri Lanka. He will be the chief guest at the Independence Day celebrations in Mauritius on Thursday.