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India, Seychelles to work on Assumption Island naval base project 'based on each other's interests'

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi pose for a photo with model of Dornier aircraft which will be gifted to Seychelles President Danny Antoine Rollen Faure after their meeting at Hyderabad House, in New Delhi on Monday, June 25, 2018. Photo: PTI.

NEW DELHI (PTI): Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Seychelles President Danny Faure on Monday agreed to work together on the Assumption Island project based on "each other's interests", days after reports from the island nation of it cancelling the pact with India to jointly develop a naval base there.

After their comprehensive and "frank" discussions on key areas, including security, Modi also announced a USD 100-million line of credit to Seychelles, which, Faure said, would help boost his country's military infrastructure.

"We have agreed to work together on the Assumption Island project based on each other's interests," Modi said at a joint press event with the visiting leader here.

India is keen on developing the Assumption Island in the Indian Ocean as a naval base to expand its footprint in the strategically-key region where China has been trying to enhance its military presence. An agreement to develop the island was inked in 2015 between India and Seychelles.

However, there has been growing political opposition in Seychelles, forcing Faure to say that the country would develop military facilities at the island on its own and that the project with India "will not move forward".

After his meeting with Modi, Faure said, "In the context of maritime security, the Assumption Island was discussed. We are equally engaged and will continue to work together bearing each other's interests in mind."

The remarks assume significance as Faure, who faces domestic pressure over the issue, was quoted as saying by local media ahead of his visit that the joint project with New Delhi would not move forward.

Last week, a top Seychelles foreign affairs ministry official was also quoted as saying by local media that its parliament would not ratify a pact allowing India to build naval facilities on one of the archipelago's islands and that the issue would not be discussed with the Indian leadership during Faure's visit here.

"Both India and Seychelles are key strategic partners for each other... Both countries respect the core values of democracy. We share the geo-strategic vision of maintaining peace, security and stability in the Indian Ocean Region," the prime minister said.

Noting that India and Seychelles share robust defence and security cooperation, Modi said India would also hand over second Dornier aircraft to Seychelles tomorrow as promised by him during his visit there in 2015.

The aircraft would reach Seychelles before its National Day on June 29, Modi added.

He also said that there was a strategic convergence in dealing with maritime challenges between India and Seychelles, which is straddled between one of the important Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOC) and vulnerable to piracy.

"Under our strong partnership, it is our shared responsibility that we ensure comprehensive maritime security for our exclusive economic zones and coastal areas. We face dangers of international crimes such as piracy, drugs, human trafficking and illegal explanation of oceanic resources," Modi noted and assured India's commitment to augment the island nation's defence capabilities, maritime infrastructure and increase the capabilities of its defence personnel.

With India's support, Seychelles will be able to deal with both traditional and non-traditional challenges, Modi said.

He also added that India would send experts to Seychelles on deputation in the areas identified by the island country.

The two nations also signed six Memoranda of Understanding, including in the area of infrastructure development in Seychelles, cyber security and white-shipping arrangement that would enable the two countries to exchange data regarding identity and movement of non-military commercial vessels.

The prime minister said under a special grant, India is ready to finance three infrastructure projects, which includes a government house, new police headquarters and the attorney general's office.

"Today, we have also signed an MoU under which India will provide financial assistance to high quality, high visibility, people-centric small development projects in Seychelles," Modi said.

Faure also met President Ram Nath Kovind. Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu called on the visiting leader.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj also called on Faure and discussed with him expanding bilateral cooperation in key areas, including capacity building and human resource development.

Addressing business members of industry chambers, including CII here, Faure said his country welcomes ideas, services and products from India to further strengthen economic ties between the two countries.

He said that Seychelles has created a conducive business environment and has taken a number of reform measures to attract investments.

"We will make your investment project a functioning enterprise...We value your investments and our country welcomes you," he told the gathering of business leaders.

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India  Seychelles  Naval  Project  
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