With New Delhi’s enhanced focus on the Indian Ocean region in the wake of an assertive and proactive China, the government has sent Indian Naval ship Kesari to Maldives, Mauritius, Madagascar, Comoros and Seychelles, carrying on board two medical assistance teams, consignments of Covid-related essential medicines and essential food items.
This is the first time that a single assistance mission is covering all island countries of the western Indian Ocean in one go — except Sri Lanka, for which a second set of medicines have been airlifted.
Sources said that while this exhibits the contiguity of the government’s Indian Ocean policy, it also implicitly conveys the inclusion of Madagascar and Comoros as part of the ‘Indian Ocean vision’.
The medical teams will be deployed in Mauritius and Comoros, helping their governments deal with the pandemic and, in the case of Comoros, with dengue fever also.
The mission comes on the heels of ‘Operation Samudra Setu’ which is a part of New Delhi’s efforts to repatriate citizens stranded abroad.
Kesari will deliver consignments of Covid-related medicines to Mauritius, Madagascar, Comoros and Seychelles and about 600 tonnes of food items to Maldives. In addition, in case of Mauritius, a special consignment of Ayurvedic medicines is also being sent.
The consignments meant for Madagascar and Comoros also includes Hydroxychloroquine tablets, which have already been sent earlier to Mauritius, Maldives and Seychelles.
“In line with its time-tested role as the first responder in the region, India has already supported the efforts of the Governments of Maldives, Sri Lanka, Mauritius and Seychelles by providing them consignments of Covid-19 related essential medicines. A team of select medical personnel was also dispatched to Maldives to augment the preparedness of the Maldivian Government to fight this crisis,” a statement by the MEA said on Sunday.
The operation, named ‘Mission Sagar’ (PM Modi’s concept of SAGAR — Security and Growth for All in the Region), also displays rising salience of the IOR in MEA’s policy-making.
According to a MoD statement, Mission Sagar “is in consonance with the Prime Minister’s vision of Security and Growth for All in the Region SAGAR and highlights the importance accorded by India to relations with her neighbouring countries and further strengthens the existing bond.”
After years of a lack of consistent engagement, the region is now getting the same importance as immediate neighbours. IOR countries were among the very first to receive India’s Covid assistance, which includes ‘Operation Sanjeevani’ in Maldives and special Air India flights with medicine consignments to Sri Lanka, Mauritius and Seychelles.
This is the only region where three medical teams have now been sent to assist — Maldives earlier and now Mauritius and Comoros. Sources said that it conveys not only “readiness to deploy manpower” but also the “confidence and faith in Indian expertise” in these countries.
Sources also pointed out that all assistance is “request based”. “But the manner in which the operations have been carried out display our readiness and capability to step up even as we have challenges at home,” the source said.
This, according to sources, is symbolic of importance attached by India to its maritime neighbourhood. “This cements our status as first responder in any crisis and builds trust in these countries that India can be relied upon as a trusted partner to deliver,” said one source.
Sources added that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs minister S Jaishankar have maintained regular communication with the leadership of IOR countries, including on social media.
Meanwhile, INS Magar, the second Indian Naval ship to reach Male, Maldives for evacuation of Indian citizens left for Kochi on Sunday evening with a total of 202 evacuees onboard.
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