In a major leap forward for New Delhi’s interests in the strategic Indian Ocean region, India and Seychelles have signed a pact for cooperation on Blue Economy to promote sustainable ocean development in the region. India has decided to gift one more Interceptor Coastguard boat to Seychelles, and formally signed a pact for giving a second Dornier aircraft to the Indian Ocean island nation, a key commitment made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Seychelles in March this year.
“In March, I had announced that we would gift a second Dornier aircraft to Seychelles. I am pleased that we have completed the process quickly and signed the agreement today,” Mr Modi said in a joint media interaction with Seychelles President James Alix Michel in New Delhi on August 25.
“President and I place strong emphasis on Ocean or Blue Economy. I believe, as he does, that we should look at small island countries as large ocean states with vast potential”, said Mr Modi.
“We are honoured to be a partner in providing aircraft, naval vessels and coastal radar systems for strengthening surveillance capacities. Our cooperation in hydrography surveys is extensive and growing,” Mr Modi stressed.
India’s burgeoning cooperation with Seychelles comes against Beijing’s growing forays into the Indian Ocean region, which New Delhi is prone to regard as its backyard.
The two countries also signed agreements on tax information exchange, cooperation in agriculture and an air services agreement to improve connectivity between both countries. India has also begun preparation for infrastructure development on the Assumption Islands in Seychelles, said Mr Modi.
Seychelles’ long-standing president struck an upbeat note on the future course of India-Seychelles relations. “More agreements that have been signed today in finance, agriculture, maritime security, the blue economy, and air connectivity have paved the way for the enhancement of our bilateral relations”, he added. He was also all praise for 10,000-strong Indian community in Seychelles. “The vibrant Indian community in Seychelles, which is part and parcel of the long history of our country and which shapes our common destiny, is a catalyst in bolstering the strategic partnership and our convergent bilateral interests.”
Enhanced cooperation in climate change and sustainable development also figured in the discussions. Mr Modi stressed that both countries should work together for a comprehensive, balanced and effective outcome on climate change at COP 21 in Paris in December 2015.
With the signing of these agreements, India has consolidated its position in the Indian Ocean Region. Seychelles could also expect further economic gains collaborating with Asia’s third largest economy and the world’s fastest growing economy. By improving air connectivity between both countries, one could hope to see better commercial relations between both countries as the bilateral trade is merely USD 34 million, and way below the potential.
The signing of cooperation on Blue Economy and the Tax information exchange agreement would also help in enhancing economic cooperation further between both the countries. The tax information exchange would help curb tax evasion and provides for mutual assistance between the authorities of the two countries on enforcement action against suspected tax evaders along with other related matters.
(Sridhar Ramaswamy contributed inputs for this article)
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