In a game-changing move that provides a fresh ballast to New Delhi’s Indian Ocean maritime diplomacy, India has unveiled $500 million as concessional Line of Credit to Mauritius for a host of infrastructure projects as the two countries signed five agreements, including a key pact on ocean economy.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi met his Mauritian counterpart Anerood Jugnauth on March 11 during the second leg of his three-nation visit.
“I consider our security cooperation to be a cornerstone of our strategic partnership. We intend to quickly build the petroleum storage and bunkering facility in Mauritius,” Mr Modi said after the talks.
While offering the development package, Mr Modi said, “Today, I was pleased to offer a concessional line of credit of $500 million for civil infrastructure projects for Mauritius.”
This is by far the biggest LOC India has granted to an island state, and underlines New Delhi’s focus on ramping up its presence in the Indian Ocean region, where China has made rapid forays in recent years.
Mauritius also conveyed its desire to seek India’s cooperation on information sharing concerning taxation and business investments. “I have requested PM Modi to give his full support on DTAA [Mauritius-India Double Taxation Avoidance Treaty] as it is of prime importance to global business sector,” Mr Jugnauth said.
Both countries have reached an understanding to upgrade sea and air transportation network at Agalega Island of Mauritius. India would help to provide better connectivity at the Outer Island of Mauritius.
“The multilateral agreement on ocean economy provides for mutually beneficial cooperation for exploration and capacity development in the field of marine resources, fisheries, green tourism, research and development of ocean technology, exchange of experts and other related activities,” said in a formal statement.
This will also “enhance the capabilities of the Mauritian Defence Forces in safeguarding their interests in the Outer Island,” the statement said.
Mauritius, where the first batch of Indian labourers arrived on November 2, 1834 to work for sugar plantation, now is home to 70 per cent of its population of Indian Origin. To cheer the Indian diaspora, a MoU was also signed on importing Indian mangoes.
India and Mauritius have kindred cultures as both nations were founded on democratic values and shared ancestral history. The two countries inked an agreement on cultural cooperation for 2015-18, which will promote training in fine arts, cultural exhibitions, promotion of Indian languages, and exchange of students among other things.
Mauritius looms large in New Delhi’s enhanced Indian Ocean diplomacy matrix. Mauritius’ then Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam was the only non-SAARC leader to be invited for the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Modi in May 2014.
Mr Modi has bene honoured by being invited as the chief Guest at the National Day celebrations of Mauritius on March 12, a historic day that also marks the launch of the salt satyagraha by Mahatma Gandhi 85 years ago. In the morning, he has extended his wishes to the citizens of Mauritius.
“National Day greetings to the citizens of Mauritius. Am very glad that I am able to mark this special occasion with the people of Mauritius,” he tweeted.
Over the years, India’s relations with Mauritius have diversified to include just about every area, with business bonding becoming stronger by the day. India is Mauritius’ largest trading partner, and has been the largest exporter of goods and services to Mauritius since the last eight years. Mauritius has been the single largest source of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into India. During 2012-13, FDI equity inflows from Mauritius into India amounted to US$ 9.497 billion. The next financial year (2013-14) saw India attracting $4.85 billion in FDI from Mauritius.
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