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India renegotiates pact with Seychelles

Officials said the agreement will enable India to help Seychelles build military infrastructure for the Seychelles People’s Defence Forces on Assumption Island.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi |
January 28, 2018 3:28:39 am
Seychelles, India Seychelles, China Seychelles, Seychelles military facilities, Indian Express The Indian Express had first reported on October 12 that Jaishankar had made an unannounced visit to Seychelles as the deal to develop the island had run into trouble and he had gone there in October to iron out differences.

With Chinese influence over Seychelles looming large over India’s attempt to develop a strategically located island there, Seychelles is learnt to have told Delhi it can “suspend” the use of military facilities on Assumption Island if India is at war, sources have told The Sunday Express.

It has also told Delhi that other “international partners” can also use the facilities being developed by India on the island. It has used the “sovereignty” argument to make its case. This comes three years after the pact to develop Assumption Island was signed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit in March 2015.

This is understood to be part of the re-negotiated agreement between the two countries, which was signed during Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar’s visit to Seychelles on Saturday. This is possibly Jaishankar’s last overseas assignment as he retires on January 28. The Indian Express had first reported on October 12 that Jaishankar had made an unannounced visit to Seychelles as the deal to develop the island had run into trouble and he had gone there in October to iron out differences.

Seychelles Attorney-General Frank Ally was quoted by Seychelles News Agency that the Indian government will be able to gain access to the facility as well as countries in the region, but it will not be used to transport or keep nuclear arms. “Seychelles can suspend the utilisation of the military facilities if India is at war because this is not a military base,” Ally told SNA.

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Top sources confirmed to The Indian Express that this was the Seychelles government’s official position, which was articulated during official discussions and was incorporated in the “revised” agreement. The revised agreement was approved in the Seychelles cabinet earlier this week. Development of island infrastructure is an internationally accepted euphemism for development of strategic assets and the US and China already have many such assets in the region.

Officials said the agreement will enable India to help Seychelles build military infrastructure for the Seychelles People’s Defence Forces on Assumption Island.

Jaishankar’s counterpart in Seychelles, Barry Faure, was quoted by SNA saying that when the agreement was signed, the intention was not for India to take control of the island. “Although the project was being financed entirely by India, Seychelles retains full ownership of the facilities and sovereign rights over the island,” said Faure. After President Danny Faure assumed office in October 2016, discussion on the agreement was reopened.

Concerned by Beijing’s moves and increasing presence in Seychelles, India had sent Jaishankar on an unannounced visit there in October last year, since Seychelles had said it would like to take a “relook” at the agreement between the two countries to build military infrastructure on Assumption Island. Officials in Seychelles had said the agreement did not have legal backing on their side. Jaishankar had then met Seychelles President Danny Faure.

In the revised agreement, the main aim is to provide a framework for assistance to Seychelles by India. It will help enhance the military capabilities and maritime surveillance of the island nation’s Exclusive Economic Zone, protection of the EEZ and the outer islands and search and rescue in the region for the benefit of air and shipping traffic.

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