Republic of Seychelles, 115-island nation is an archipelago in Indian Ocean. Its proximity to mainland Africa is 1500 kms towards the South-east direction. It has a population of less than 1 lakh, the smallest for any African country. It is a part of the African Union. It gained its independence as a republic within the ambit of Commonwealth nations in 1976. President forms the head of state and the government who also appoints and presides over the Cabinet as per the approval of legislature. The country is divided into 26 administrative regions which are formed of all inner islands. The capital Victoria is composed of 8 districts. As a part of its foreign commitments and relations it is member of Indian Ocean Commission, La Francophonie and Commonwealth nations.
India and Seychelles: India and Seychelles have shared cordial relations and share strong diplomatic ties ever since the country gained independence in 1976. India’s High Commission in Victoria has been in place since 1987 while the Seychelles High Commission opened its residence at New Delhi in 2008. Many high profile visit exchanges have been a regular feature of bilateral relations. The relations cover a wide spectrum of sectors like defence, culture, trade and technical cooperation. Seychelles has officially described itself a “rock of dependability for India in the Indian Ocean region”.
- In terms of trade, the volume amounts to $40 million in 2010-11 with the tilt in favour of India. Key sectors include-tourism, fishing, petroleum exploration, communications, IT and pharmaceuticals.
- The two countries have signed a bilateral investment promotion agreement in 2010 and India also gave a line of credit worth $50 million in 2012.
- Indian telecom giant Airtel has a significant presence in Seychelles. The company has acquired Telecom Seychelles and had partnered the Seychelles East Africa Submarine Cable project.
- The defence relations have also been brimming with extensive cooperation. Seychelles has high strategic importance due to its proximity to global shipping and commerce lanes. It serves as a vital base to fight sea-terrorism and piracy. Indian Navy deployed INS Vindhyagiri at the Port of Victoria in 1986 under Operation Flowers are Blooming to abort a coup attempt against the then President. In 2009, India again had sent its naval ships to protect against the piracy. Indian Naval Ship INS Tarasa was gifted to Seychelles in 2014 to help it improve its maritime security.
- India is an important medical tourism destination for Seychelles.
The recent visit of PM Narendra Modi took the relations a step further. Mr. Modi termed Seychelles as an important partner in the Indian Ocean neighbourhood. Highlights:
- Two countries signed four agreements: Cooperation in hydrography, renewable energy, infrastructure and sale of navigation charts and electronic navigation charts.
- India will give a second Dronier aircraft to the country.
- PM announced that India will grant free visas to citizens of Seychelles for next three months. A facility of visa-on-arrival will be granted to Seychelles’ citizens.
- A Joint Working Group to further the cooperation on blue economy which stands for exploring new possibilities of the ocean in a sustainable way.
- PM Modi unveiled the coastal surveillance radar system in Victoria to enhance the security of the maritime territory of Seychelles.
- PM also secured the leasing of Assumption Island which will in practice be used as a listening and surveillance post for India.