Diplomatic ties were established with Seychelles after its independence in 1976, but the links date back even earlier. An Indian Mission was established in 1979 in Victoria with the High Commissioner based in Dar-es-Salaam concurrently accredited to Seychelles.
The first resident High Commissioner was placed in Victoria in 1987, while Seychelles opened its resident mission in New Delhi in early 2008.
At the moment Seychelles’ main items of import from India are food items, beverages, cereals, grains, textiles, mineral products, base metals, machinery and mechanical appliances and vehicles and associated transport equipments.
Total export of India in 2012 is $ 44.7 millions and India’s imports are$ 6.6 millions.
One major investment from an Indian company has been by M/s. Bharti Airtel Telecom group which has invested over $25 million and set up Airtel mobile telephone and internet services in Seychelles since 1998.
From 10 to 14 of June, 2013, Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) organized an “International Business Programme” in collaboration with Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Seychelles to impart training to Seychelles nationals involved in different sector of business and economy.
The first edition of Seychelles-India Day 2013 was celebrated in Victoria, Seychelles between 4 and 6 October 2013. Top Bollywood stars, play back singers, leading choreographer, Culinary Expert and Musicians from India showcased their talents together with the local artistes in the celebration.
Dance workshop, Food workshop, Music concert and dance performance etc., were conducted by them to enthrall the Seychellois and Indians on those three days with the culmination of grand gala evening show focusing on the ‘100 years of Bollywood’ on the 6th October 2013.
India has an important link with Seychelles in the form of Indian nationals who have been among the earliest inhabitants of this island, mostly from Tamil Nadu and of late from Gujarat, who came as labour, petty traders, construction workers and more recently as professionals.
The Indian community comprises Seychellois of Indian origin in their first or second generations or even older. Together they constitute around 7% of the total population.
A South Indian Hindu temple called Lord Navasakthi Vinayagar Temple is situated in Victoria. Hindu Council of Seychelles celebrates Holi, Janmashtami, Dusshera and Diwali every year by organizing cultural shows, display of fireworks and distribution of sweets.
Five agreements including an information exchange agreement with respect to taxes, a Memorandum of Understanding for the supply of a Dornier aircraft, an air services agreement, a protocol on framework of cooperation in the field of the blue economy and a Memorandum of Understanding relating to agriculture research and education have been signed between the two countries.
India has also presented navigational charts relating to the Seychelles Atoll of Aldabra.
India’s PM Modi announced that India will give a second Dronier aircraft to the country.
He also launched the Coastal Surveillance Radar Project, describing it as another symbol of the cooperation between the two countries.
Prime Minister also announced that India would grant free visas for three months to the citizens of Seychelles.
Exchange of information with respect to taxes
The Agreement will stimulate the flow of exchange of information between India and Seychelles for tax purposes, which will help curb tax evasion and tax avoidance.
It will enable the Competent Authorities of India and Seychelles to provide assistance through exchange of information that is foreseeably relevant
The agreement also provides for a Mutual Agreement Procedure for resolving any difference or for agreeing on procedures under the agreement.
India’s assistance to Seychelles
Given the proliferation of pirates in the region, India has been proactive in strengthening the capacity of the Seychelles Peoples’ Defence Forces (SPDF). India has donated military vehicles and surveillance equipment to the SPDF. In 2014, India gifted a naval ship, INS Tarasa, to Seychelles to augment surveillance and patrolling capacity of Seychelles waters that encompasses an extensive Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of over 1.3 million sq. kms.
Moving beyond defence, it’s in the areas of development and capacity building that the India-Seychelles partnership shines forth. In 2012, India had pledged US$ 50 million as Line of Credit and US$ 25 million as a grant to the Government of Seychelles.
India’s flagship ITEC programme has acted as a bridge builder and has benefited nearly a 1000 Seychellois by providing them training in the civilian, defence and other fields.
Besides extending Lines of Credit and training, India has been involved with a host of projects in the island country, including the IT Centre for Excellence.
Why India need to step up its relations with Indian Ocean nations
The Indian Ocean encompasses about one-fifth of the world’s sea area and the Indian Peninsula juts two thousand kilometres into the sea, bringing approximately 50 percent of the Indian Ocean within a 1000-mile arc ascribed from Indian territory.
India’s dominant position in the middle of the Indian Ocean and astride some of the busiest strategic Sea Lanes of Communications imposes huge operational responsibility to ensure security of both the choke points and the SLOCs so that there is free and unhindered flow of international trade.
Piracy, smuggling, illegal fishing, sea level rising, natural disasters, rampant poaching and terrorism will continue to demand maritime response and will remain critical to national security. It is important for India to create a secure maritime environment through a strong and effective military especially naval capability. Indian Navy today is a blue water navy with a sizable force projection capabilities. As its capabilities get further enhanced in future, so will its role as a net security provider in the IOR.
Increasing Chinese presence and the threat of PLA-N bases in the IOR, the growing interests of other major powers (US, UK, Russia, France and Japan) in the region, and the many Chinese infrastructure projects in the region, create an imperative for India to actively limit the military maritime activity of external powers in the region.
The real danger from an Indian standpoint is not increased US interest in the Indian Ocean Region but the lack of it. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis and the US Pivot to the Pacific, American interest in the Indian Ocean has been waning. With the shale revolution, the US is losing interest in the Middle East. Consequently, its stakes in securing the flow of energy from the Persian Gulf too have reduced. Regrettably, US naval retrenchment from the region also means a reduced ability to confront larger threats to peace and security in West Asia.