India has vowed to further enhance its strategic partnership with Seychelles in the post-COVID era as External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar held high-level talks with the country’s top leadership during his two-day visit to the key Indian Ocean nation. Jaishankar, who arrived here from the United Arab Emirates, also visited Bahrain as part of this three-nation tour which began on Tuesday.
During his visit, he called on Seychelles’ newly-elected Indian-origin President Wavel Ramkalawan on Friday and congratulated him on his recent electoral victory. Jaishankar and Ramkalawan discussed the historical neighbourly relationship strengthened by a shared belief in values of democracy and rule of law.
He “iterated India’s resolve to further enhance the India-Seychelles strategic partnership in the post-COVID era,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement on Saturday. The minister also “spoke of the centrality of Seychelles to India’s vision of SAGAR (Security And Growth for All in the Region) that characterised India’s policy towards the Indian Ocean Region. As a neighbour across waters, Seychelles was very much a part of the Neighbourhood First policy as well,” it said.
Jaishankar also carried a personal message from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and conveyed an invitation from the Indian leadership to the Seychelles President to visit India in 2021. “Discussed our close security cooperation, strong development partnership and long-standing people-to-people contacts,” Jaishankar said in a tweet after the meeting with Ramkalawan.
“Assured him that Seychelles had a particular priority, both under the Neighbourhood First policy and the SAGAR outlook. Look forward to further strengthening our ties under his leadership,” he said. The minister also recalled Ramkalawan’s visit to India in January 2018 and expressed the confidence that under his leadership, the close ties between the two countries would develop even further, it said.
President Ramkalwan appreciated the assistance provided by India during the pandemic in the form of medical supplies and critical drugs and valued the development and security partnership between the two countries. He also spoke of its positive impact on nation-building in Seychelles. Jaishankar emphasised India’s commitment to support the interests and aspirations of Seychelles and take this cooperation to a higher level. The discussions underscored the need to further expand and deepen bilateral engagement, and to coordinate and cooperate to counter the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the press release.
They stressed the need to strengthen shared efforts to combat drug trafficking, IUU (Illegal, unreported and unregulated) fishing, piracy and climate change while protecting the ocean ecosystem. They also talked about a wide range of regional issues that impacted on their respective interests. Jaishankar also met Seychelles’ Minister of Foreign Affairs and Tourism Sylvestre Radegonde and discussed various aspects of bilateral relations including development partnership, capacity building, defence cooperation, people to people and cultural ties, trade, tourism and commerce and health, it said.
Jaishankar’s visit assumes significance as India is developing infrastructure in the country to expand its footprint in the strategically-key region in the Indian Ocean where China has been trying to enhance its military presence. Indian-origin President Ramkalawan won the presidential election on October 25 this year, the first such victory for an Opposition candidate since Independence. Born in Mahe, the principal island of Seychelles, Ramkalawan was ordained as a priest in 1985 following theological studies at St Paul’s Theological College in Mauritius, and thereafter at Birmingham University. His grandfather was from Bihar.