NEW DELHI: In his last major deal before he retired on Monday, foreign secretary S Jaishankar signed a 20-year agreement with Seychelles on Saturday that will enable the construction of Indian naval/military infrastructure on Assumption Island.
The first agreement was signed in March 2015, when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the island nation, but the opposition in the Seychelles government had sought some revisions, which have now been worked out. The project will cover about a quarter of Assumption Island, about 1,140 km southwest of the Seychelles main island.
The revised agreement provides a framework of Indian assistance to Seychelles to help enhance its military capability and maritime surveillance of the island nation’s 1.37 sq km Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). It provides for protection of the EEZ and the outer islands, and search and rescue in case of air or shipping mishaps.
“A committee has been set up under this agreement that will enable a joint supervision by the two countries to ensure the provisions under it are executed,” Attorney General of Seychelles, Frank Ally, said.
“As two maritime neighbours, we have a stake in each other’s security. Seychelles with its Exclusive Economic Zone spread over 1.3 million sq kms is particularly vulnerable,” Jaishankar said after signing the agreement in Victoria, Seychelles.
“Recognising this, India and Seychelles have drawn up a cooperation agenda that covers within its purview shared efforts in anti-piracy operations, enhanced EEZ surveillance and monitoring to prevent intrusions by potential economic offenders indulging in illegal fishing, poaching, drug and human trafficking,” he said.
“We have had a long, healthy relationship with Seychelles, and helped avert at least two coups on the island. Once in June 1986, when we stalled a coup against then-President France-Albert René by extending the stay of INS Vindhyagiri, which was there on an official visit. Then again in August the same year, when Rene was in Harare attending a NAM summit ... I recall PM Rajiv Gandhi gave Rene his own official aircraft to fly back to Victoria and avert the coup,” said a former diplomat.“The first case was code-named Operation ‘Flowers are Blooming’ by India. Despite some hiccups, it appears that flowers are indeed blooming in the India Seychelles relationship,” he said.