New Delhi: India's plans of having a naval base in Seychelles has not made much headway since PM Narendra Modi and President Danny Faure signed an agreement in 2015. A number of domestic factors have contributed to the delay of a project that is aimed at checking shipping in the Mozambique Channel.
Speaking to WION in Seychelles' capital city of Victoria as part of the channel's Global Leadership Series, Faure said he continues to believe in the agreement and its objectives but the domestic situation in his country has been a roadblock. "I am President. I am the head of the Executive, but I do not have a majority in our parliament. I have decided not to submit the agreement to the National Assembly," he said. "This doesn’t mean that the ambition of my government, my administration for us to have a coast guard facility on Assumption (the name of the island for the proposed base) does not remain."
As per the 2015 agreement, the base is to be funded by India and militaries of both countries would share it. It could prove to be a massive strategic shot in the arm for India at a time when China has already developed a military base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa. Faure though said the roadblocks to having a joint base with India has nothing to do with China. "We have welcomed all partners and at no time have we found ourselves under any pressure from the Chinese government," he said, adding that he is grateful to PM Modi for understanding the reason behind the delay. "India understands, the Prime Minister understands the Seychelles position and I am happy there hasn’t been any movement whereby the government of India has tried to influence our domestic politics."
Nonetheless, with India ready to invest $550 million for a base that could ensure the safety of its merchant vessels, the delay could be bothersome.
And at ground level, a number of factors have contributed to the present situation.
News agency AFP reported in March that locals are largely opposed to the idea of a naval base for India. They have been organising protests and while some fear influx of Indian workers, others are opposed to the idea of a foreign military power in their country. There have been concerns about the environmental impact of a naval base as well.
Faure though remains confident of bonds between Seychelles and India remaining strong. "India, as our neighbour, is a good friend and has been with Seychelles in good times and bad times. We have received technical cooperation for defence and security. With the support we have received from India, we have been able over the years to build our own defense forces," he said, adding once again that the China factor cannot dictate the course of bilateral relations with India. "Our relationship has never been one of being dictated to by big countries and I think it is in this context that I believe that our relationship will grow with both India and China."