Indian Ocean Region Current Affairs - 2020

Mauritius declares emergency over oil spill

On August 8, 2020, the island of Mauritius declared environmental emergency due to oil spill caused by Japanese owned ship that was stranded off the coast days ago. The MV Wakashio of Japanese companies Nagashiki Shipping Ltd and Okiyo Maritime Corporation was on its way from Brazil to Singapore carrying 4,000 tonnes of fuel. The ship ran aground on July 25, 2020.

Highlights

The cracks that appeared on the ship hull caused the oil spill and has put around 1 to 3 million residents in the island nation to danger. The Mauritius Government has appealed to the French Government for help.

Why France for help?

The French Island of Reunion is the closest to Mauritius. The Island of Reunion is a major military base of France in the Indian Ocean. India conducted joint patrols with the French Navy, CORPAT (Coordinated Patrols) for the first time from the Reunion Island in March 2020.

India-Mauritius

Mauritius is a part of security grid of India including Coastal Surveillance Radar (CSR). The Head of Mauritian National Security Advisor and Mauritius Navy are Indian Officers. India has several Free Trade Agreements with Mauritius. It includes enhanced EEZ surveillance and anti-piracy operations to prevent intrusions by potential economic offenders including illegal poaching, fishing, human trafficking and drugs. Mauritius is one of the top sources of Foreign Direct Investment for India. India receives 15-16 billion USD of FDI from Mauritius.

The bilateral relation with the island nation is important for India for its strategic location in the Indian Ocean Region.

India in the Indian Ocean

To counter Chinese strategy of “String of Pearls” in the Indian Ocean, India is exerting itself in the same region through agreements with France, US and Australia to take advantage of their bases in Reunion and Cocos Islands (Australia).

Agaelga Island of Mauritius

The Agalega Islands of Mauritius has been leased to the Indian military for development of strategic assets. The island is located to the north of Mauritius island.

GoI extends Line of Credit worth 18 million USD to Maldives

The Government of India has extended Line of Credit of worth 18 million USD to Maldives to expand fishing facilities at Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company (MIFCO).

Highlights

The funds granted to Maldives are to be used for the following

  • To develop 50-tonne ice plant in Gemanafushi. Also, a 100-tonne ice storage facility is to be developed
  • The funds will be used to set up tuna cooked plant and fishmeal plant
  • Investments towards fish collection

The above projects will help Maldives to increase fish collection and storage capacity. It will help the country acquire new markets in the fisheries sector.

India-Maldives

Maldives is important to India for its strategic location. In Indian Ocean, Maldives archipelago comprises of 1,200 coral islands. They lie next to the shipping lanes that ensure uninterrupted energy supplies to India, China and Japan.

Maldives is important to India for the following reasons

  • International Geopolitics: The significance of Maldives has grown since China began to send its ships to Indian Ocean 10 years ago. China sends its ships right up to Gulf of Aden in the name of antipiracy operations.
  • Regional Security: India needs to cooperate with Maldives as the former is a pre-eminent South Asian power and a net security provider in the Indian Ocean Region.
  • Maldives supports India at the United Nations Security Council.
  • There are more than 25,000 Indian nationals living in Maldives. Indian tourists account to 6% of Maldives tourism.

Bilateral Assistance

India has offered assistance to Maldives whenever required. India was the first to provide with relief when Maldives was badly hit by Tsunami. Also, GoI has launched several operations as in need to help save Maldives.

Operation Cactus

India launched Operation Cactus in 1984 and saved Maldives from a coup.

Operation Neer

This operation was launched by the Indian Government to help save Maldives from major fire that broke out in a Male Water and Sewerage company.