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).
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 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.