Assumption Island Current Affairs - 2019

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Former Army Chief Dalbir Singh Suhag appointed High Commissioner to Seychelles

Army General (Retd.) Dalbir Singh Suhag was appointed as High Commissioner of India to Republic of Seychelles. His appointment comes at the time when military ties between India and island nation have deepened in recent times. Dalbir Singh Suhag was Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) i.e. Army General from August 2014 to December 2016.

Appointment of former defence personnel as envoy to countries is not new. Previously, Indian Navy Chief Nirmal Kumar Verma had served as high commissioner to Canada, and his successor Suresh Mehta was high commissioner to New Zealand and former air chief N.A.K. Browne was ambassador to Norway.

Strategic Significance of Seychelles

Seychelles Islands is strategically lactated in Indian Ocean, northeast of Madagascar from where global shipping and commerce lanes pass. In recent times, it has become important base in fighting seaborne terrorism and piracy in IOR.

India and Seychelles had signed to build naval base (a coast guard facility) in Seychelles’ Assumption Island during PM Narendra Modi’s visit to island nation in 2015. This will enable India to increase its presence in strategically-key region of IOR and to counter increasing military presence China in the region.

Assumption Island: Seychelles denies joint project with India to develop naval base

Seychelles President Danny Faure ahead of his state visit to India has said that India-Seychelles joint project to develop naval base at Assumption Island in his country will not move forward. He also mentioned that Seychelles will develop military facilities at the island on its own. This statement comes after growing political opposition in Seychelles to agreement that was signed with India in 2015 to develop a naval facility at Assumption Island which would have given India strategic advantage in Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

Background

India was keen on developing the Assumption Island as naval base due to key strategic location in the western periphery of Indian Ocean and to expand its footprint in the region where China has been trying to enhance its military presence. For this, India had signed 20 years agreement in 2015 during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to that Seychelles. It was meant to India’s first Naval Base project overseas and had acquired significance after China had acquired its first African naval base in Djibouti (near Horn of Africa) in November 2014. However, after opposition leaders in Seychelles came out openly against agreement with India, Seychelles President refused to place in Seychelles National Assembly (its parliament) since he didn’t have majority. Later in January 2018, India and Seychelles finalised an updated version of the original pact to accommodate lot of concerns of Seychelles side.

Assumption Island

Assumption Island is a small island situated southwest of Seychelles main and largest island of Mahe. It is situated very close to Mozambique Channel from where much Indian Ocean maritime routes pass. Its location lends it strategic importance for monitoring shipping in the Mozambique Channel.