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Opinion

EAM Jaishankar begins visit to Seycelles to focus on security and development cooperation

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Foreign Minister S Jaishankar began a two-day visit to Seychelles on Friday, as part of India’s renewed focus on security and development cooperation with its Indian Ocean neighbors in the face of China’s aggression in the region.

Seychelles is the last leg of Jaishankar’s three-nation tour that also took him to Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, and his main goal in the capital Victoria is to meet with newly elected President Wavel Ramkalawan and present a letter from the first Minister Narendra Modi.

Jaishankar will become the first high-level foreign leader to meet with Ramkalawan, of Indian descent, who in October became the first opposition candidate to be elected president of the archipelago since 1977, as Seychelles is under strict rules of government. quarantine. Seychelles made a special exemption for the visit.

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The visit coincides with the Seychelles’ union with Bangladesh and Mauritius as observers of a meeting of the trilateral dialogue on maritime security cooperation between India, Maldives and Sri Lanka in Colombo. India is represented in the talks, which take place after a six-year gap, by national security adviser Ajit Doval.

“The meeting in Sri Lanka and the foreign minister’s visit to Seychelles are part of efforts to increase security and development cooperation across the Indian Ocean, especially for awareness of the maritime domain,” said a person familiar with the events that declined to be identified.

“The Indian side also wants to understand President Ramkalawan’s development priorities to strengthen bilateral cooperation. India has tried to expand their relationship through assistance in the form of grants and concessional loans, “the person said.

Although development cooperation will top the agenda – India is currently helping Seychelles build a new Government House, police headquarters and attorney general’s office at a total cost of nearly $ 91 million – the Indian side discuss stalled movement to build naval facilities on Isla de la Asunción, located about 1,100 km from the main island of Mahé.

Although the two parties signed two agreements for this in 2015 and 2018, construction could not begin due to protests from opposition parties. Ramkalawan had led opposition to the project and political parties had refused to ratify the agreements despite the fact that the second incorporated specific clauses to address concerns expressed by some sectors of Seychelles.

While China has provided two light aircraft and two warships and financed the construction of the Seychelles Parliament, India has provided the archipelago with three naval ships and two maritime surveillance aircraft and established six coastal radar stations.

Experts say such cooperation is crucial to patrol the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of Indian Ocean states and track the movement of ships, including Chinese warships.

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