Even as India’s plan to build a military base on an outlying Seychelles island has gained favour among the nation’s politicians, it faces some hostility from its people, reported AFP. The military base that is likely to come up on Assumption Island is to be funded by India and shared by the two countries’ militaries, the news agency said.
The deal to build a military base was struck in principle in 2015 during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the Seychelles, but progress since has been slow. The Seychelles government, which is based in Victoria on Mahe Island 1,135 kilometres (705 miles) northeast of Assumption, told AFP the military base will help coastguards to patrol its 1.3 million square kilometre (500,000 square mile) exclusive economic zone for illegal fishing, drug trafficking and piracy.
As of now, the remote island has a small post office, an air strip with almost no people. It’s less than seven kilometres long, and has a high point just 30 metres (100 feet) above sea level. Its important to note that the location lends it strategic importance for monitoring shipping in the Mozambique Channel.
As per the AFP, 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.
AFP quoted India’s ambassador Ausaf Sayeed as saying: “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, and our interest is that our trading vessels are safe.”
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. But ratification of the 2015 agreement has been slow with a new, amended pact only signed between the two countries on January 27.
(with inputs from AFP)