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No Official Word From Seychelles yet Over Assumption Island Agreement

According to sources, there has been no official communication from the Seychelles government that the agreement has been cancelled.

New Delhi: While Seychelles President Danny Faure indicated that the agreement for India to sponsor a naval facility at Assumption Island will “not move forward”, India has not yet received any official intimation that the agreement has been scrapped.

On June 4, Faure held a press conference where the question of the fate of the Assumption Island project inevitably rose. “In next year’s budget, we will put funds for us to build a coastguard facility on Assumption ourselves. It is important for us to ensure that we have a military post in this area,” he said.

Faure, as per a report of the Seychelles news agency, said that the Assumption project will “not move forward”.

Assumtion island, Seychelles. credit: Wikimedia Commons

Assumtion Island, Seychelles. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In an earlier interview to WION news channel, Faure had similarly stated that he had decided not to table the agreement for ratification in the parliament as the opposition, with the majority in the house, was opposed to the deal. He had also stated that his government still had the ambition to set up a coastguard facility on Assumption to patrol Seychelles’s territorial waters.

Sources told The Wire that there has been no official communication from the Seychelles government that the agreement has been cancelled.

The opposition, which had initially supported the project, had already announced in March that the agreement was “dead”. There were weekly protests against the agreement, with activists protesting the presence of a foreign power and also raising environmental concerns.

India has already faced unprecedented diplomatic breach over this agreement, which was first signed in 2015 during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In March, the classified text of the 2018 revised agreement, as well as the original 2015 pact, and a supplementary document were leaked through a social media account.

India has taken a hands-off approach to the roadblocks to implementing the agreement. It was felt that any strong public position taken by India would, in fact, not be helpful in light of local political concerns.

There is, however, so far not much sign that this impediment is due to the meddling of any other foreign powers, according to sources. The assessment, until now, is that the stalling of the project is largely a result of domestic politicking between the main political actors with the possibility of an early presidential election in the air. The latest remarks of the Seychelles president about the agreement is also being seen through the lens of the current political climate in the Indian Ocean nation.

Faure has already met with Modi twice this year. He attended the International Solar Alliance summit in Delhi, just a few days after the leak of the agreements.

Their last meeting was not scheduled, but it took place on a direct request of the Seychelles president on the sidelines of the London Commonwealth summit in April. Raising the issue of the Assumption Island project, Faure told Modi that there were some hindrances in its implementation, but also noted that the proposed coastguard facilities were essential for Seychelles’s own security interests.

Faure will be on his first state visit to India later this month when a number of agreements are expected to be signed. However, as Faure himself said, India’s collaboration for the Assumption Island project will not be on the formal agenda for the talks and has been put on the back burner for now.

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