Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar begins his official visit to the Seychelles today to meet with recently elected President
Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar begins his official visit to the Seychelles today to meet with recently elected President Wavel Ramkalawan.
The two countries have a strong history of bilateral cooperation, especially on economic and defense issues. However, relations remain complicated as some joint projects have floundered: an agreement to lease Seychelles’ Assumption Island to India as a joint military base was scrapped in 2018 after strong objections from opposition leaders, including Ramkalawan.
Expect Jaishankar to seek to maintain the country’s close working relationship as Ramkalawan establishes his administration’s agenda. The Seychelles’ proximity to busy shipping lanes in the Mozambique Channel makes it of significant strategic importance, especially as India seeks to counter China’s growing presence throughout the Indian Ocean.
Given that the pandemic has weakened the Seychelles’ tourism-reliant economy, financial assistance is not off the table. Though the island has recorded only 166 COVID-19 cases, funding for healthcare-focused development projects would prove particularly attractive for the island nation. As part of the deal, Jaishankar may also attempt to negotiate an air travel corridor to allow Indian tourists, who are currently restricted from travelling to the Seychelles, to return to the island’s sandy beaches.
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