Seychelles President Danny Faure’s announcement ahead of his India visit on June 25 that the joint development of a strategically-important naval base on Assumption Island stands abandoned is a major setback to India in the plans to get a foothold in the Indian Ocean.
President Faure told his country’s parliament last week that he will not take up the deal with India for ratification. The deal had been touted as a major breakthrough by India in its efforts to counter Chinese hegemony when it was mooted on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s official visit to Seychelles in 2015.
Evidently, while paying lip service to improving relations with India, China has been systematically weakening the Indian hold on Indian Ocean coastal states. After successes in Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Maldives, it is now the turn of Seychelles in expanding the Chinese footprint.
The Indo-Seychelles deal’s abandonment through vociferous resistance from the country’s opposition bears the hint of a Chinese gameplan to sabotage India’s entry into the power games in the Indian Ocean in which Beijing brooks no challenge.
Wavell John Charles Ramkalawan, the leader of Opposition of Seychelles, had said after a visit to New Delhi in January last that he would oppose the deal. India’s efforts to bring him on board clearly failed to make an impact on him or perhaps the Chinese pressure on him and on the President was too much for them to withstand.
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Significantly, a revised agreement for the development of the Assumption island to alleviate political concerns within the Indian Ocean nation over ownership and use of the facility that India will develop was signed in January but despite that, the project is being abandoned.
President Faure is apparently coming to India to explain the compulsions for him to backtrack on the deal which had been agreed to in principle three years ago though he has said that there would be no discussion on that during his visit.