NEW DELHI: India launched a coastal surveillance radar project, gifted Seychelles a Dronier aircraft for enhancing maritime security capabilities and received an island on lease for surveillance, as measures to boost its security ties with the key Indian Ocean region nation.
During Prime Minister Narendra Modi's less than 24-hour-visit to Victoria, the capital of Seychelles — the first by an Indian PM in 33 years — the two sides also signed an agreement for hydrographic survey for maritime cooperation. Modi hoped that Seychelles will soon become a full partner in the maritime security cooperation between India, Maldives and Sri Lanka. Along with Mauritius, Seychelles is currently an observers at the Indo-Lanka - Male National Security Advisor level dialogue.
The significant part of the growing strategic partnership was the decision by Seychelles to lease Assumption Island, one of its 115 Islands, to India for infrastructure development. "Our agreement today on the development of infrastructure in the Assumption Island gives a strong boost to this partnership," Modi said in his joint media interaction following his talks with President James Michel who showed a special gesture by receiving the PM at the airport on Tuesday night.
On paper, the island will be leased for 'island development' for tourism purposes, but in actuality, it could be put to use as a listening and surveillance post, sources said.
This arrangement is similar to that with the Mauritius authorities. China has been active in the Indian Ocean region, attempting to expand its influence in India's extended neighbourhood as part of the grand maritime silk route launched last year, as per experts who have followed the developments closely.
Beijing wants to safeguard the sea lanes of communication through which its trade passes amid growing incidents of piracy along Africa's eastern coast. Seychelles has been viewed by China as a possible replenishment port for ships taking part in antipiracy operations in the region.