International Relations Prelims cum Mains

India’s proposed Assumption Island deal drifts

The news

  • The Indian government has refused to respond on the move by Seychelles President Danny Faure to cancel the agreement with India for the development of Assumption Island in the Indian Ocean.

Background

  • Discussions regarding development of Assumption Island began in 2003, but were only formalised in 2015 during Mr. Modi’s visit.
  • Since Seychelles and India earlier this year signed an agreement to build military facilities on the remote island of Assumption, the project quickly became controversial, with the Seychelles government supporting the plan but opposition members in the National Assembly and many private citizens against it.
  • Many attempts have been made to save the deal and India also engaged the opposition leadership but to no avail.
  • The opposition leader rebuffed the Indian request, saying during a speech in New Delhi that “Seychelles would never accept any naval base of any country, be it the U.S. or India or any other”.
  • In early June, 2018, Mr. Faure announced that the Assumption project will not move forward.
  • Faure made it clear that he would have no further discussions on the subject with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and that he was not going table it in the Seychelles National Assembly for ratification.
  • India has not received any official communication of the decision taken by the Seychelles government.
  • The External Affairs Ministry refused to comment.

 

About the agreement

  • The deal was to include a 20-year access to the base, as well as permission to station some military personnel on ground with facilities on the island funded by India, owned by the Seychelles and jointly managed by both sides.
  • India planned to invest $550 million dollars (446 million euros) in building the base to help it ensure the safety of its vessels in the southern Indian Ocean.
  • India has been engaging Seychelles to increase its military footprint in order to counter China’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean Region.

 

Impact of the cancellation of agreement

  • The cancellation of the agreement in a strategically important island could have far-reaching implications for India.
  • The Indian Ocean has shaped much of India’s history and now it holds the key to our future.
  • The ocean carries 90 per cent of India’s trade and our energy sources and it is also the lifeline of global commerce. Hence, it is important for India to keep hold in Indian Ocean and counter china’s growing influence in the region.
  • However, the move to cancel the agreement by Seychelles will adversely impact India’s efforts to secure Indian Ocean.
  • The decision to drop the deal over a perceived loss of sovereignty is a blow to the Indian government’s “SAGAR” (Security and Growth for All in the Region) programme, announced by Mr. Modi during a visit to Indian Ocean Rim (IOR) countries in March 2015.
  • It also comes amid India’s troubles with another IOR country, the Maldives, where the government has demanded that India withdraw two helicopters, pilots and personnel from its atolls that had been sent there to help with maritime patrols.
  • All this has created difficulty for India to secure its position in Indian Ocean.

About assumption Island

  • Assumption Island is a small island in the Outer Islands of Seychelles,north of Madagascar.
  • It is a single coral island which measures 11.6 sqkm in area.
  • Assumption is very close to the Mozambique Channel where much international trade is transiting, and not just for India but for other countries as well.
  • India’s interest is safety of its trading vessels in Southern Indian Ocean.

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