As India prepares to welcome the Prime Minister of Mauritius explain how New Delhi views its relationship with the island nation and what can be done to further develop it?

Published: December 4, 2019

India prepares to welcome the prime minister of Mauritius, Pravind Jugnauth and must hold an intense discussion about what kind of partnership it wants with the island nation.

For a very long time, India has viewed Mauritius through the eyes of her diaspora. This was only natural as Indian origin community make up a significant part of the island nation’s population. But as strategic competition in the Indian Ocean rises, the time has come to reimagine India’s ties with Mauritius.

New Delhi recognized this and as a result, began to slowly give Mauritius a more significant role in her foreign policy. The decision to unveil New Delhi’s 1st policy statement on the Indian Ocean, SAGAR (security and growth for all) in Mauritius was a step in that direction.

New Delhi must start to see Mauritius as a sovereign nation and not just an extension of itself and the diaspora but a distinct nation which possesses its unique identity and culture. The island nation may be small, but just like the British who ruled Mauritius before, the island has been punching above its weight. 

Prime Minister Jugnauth’s visit to New Delhi is a good time for India to show its respect for the sovereignty of Mauritius. India must realise that Mauritius wants to go beyond symbolism and to explore the immense possibilities that exists in the relationship between the two countries.

Mauritius is all about location and the genius of its people. As early European explorers sailed around the African continent and ventured eastwards to India, they began to call Mauritius, the “Star and Key of the Indian Ocean”. If the Portuguese and the Dutch were the first to gain a foothold in Mauritius, it was the French who gained effective control over the island in the early 18th century.

The French described the island as “a central geographical point between every other place in the world’. The British noticed this and managed to gain control of the island from the French during the Napoleonic wars. Today Diego Garcia, which was once a part of Mauritius, is a valued American base.

The Island is also an important commercial zone, The French description of the island as a “central geographic point” is equally important in regards to commerce and connectivity in the Indian Ocean.  Mauritius with its location is a stepping stone to multiple geographies.

If New Delhi finally recognises the importance of Mauritius as a financial hub for the region, a number of opportunities present themselves. 

Mauritius can play a central role in India’s investment into the African continent and help India compete with the competition, especially from China.

New Delhi so far has dealt with the island nations of the southwestern Indian Ocean — Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte, Reunion and Seychelles — on a bilateral basis. The leadership in New Delhi can deal with them as a collective using Mauritius as a hub.

Mauritius can facilitate Indian commercial activities in the region as a trade and commerce gateway, aviation hub for Indian carriers.

All of the above and more is possible if New Delhi takes a fresh look at the relationship and invest real time and money in the island nation.

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