Prime Minister Narendra Modi has managed securing agreements for the development of islands in Mauritius and Seychelles. This comes as the first step of his efforts to seize back some influence in the Indian Ocean from China.
China has made million-dollar investments in recent years by constructing numerous seaports and highways in countries that stretch all the way from the Maldives to Sri Lanka because they happen to lie on important shipping lanes via which much of the country’s energy supplies and trade is transported.
India, seeing as how China is slowly establishing a network of friendly ports in a "String of Pearls" all across the Indian Ocean, has focused more on its diplomacy, with offers of civil and military assistance.
On Wednesday, during Modi’s tour of Mauritius, officials came to an agreement to upgrade the remote Agalega islands’ sea and air links, thus offering India a foothold in an area that is quite far from its coast.
For year the two sides have been engaged in discussions about the North and South Agalega islands but there have been some reservations as to the opening up of the area to foreign involvement.
The foreign ministry of India commented via a statement that this agreement "makes the establishing and upgrading process of infrastructure for improving air and sea connectivity possible... which will greatly contribute to ameliorating the conditions of this remote island’s inhabitants."
The brand new facilities are also going to "further solidify the Mauritian Defence Forces’s capabilities of safeguarding their interests", thus suggesting that a military spin-off to the development is quite likely.
The North Agalega island features a rough air strip which would most probably be subjected to an upgrade under the agreement, as commented by a former Indian navy pilot.
China has also been working on the matter of strengthening its political relations with the island nations as evident by President Xi Jinping’s visits to the Maldives and Sri Lanka in 2014, where Chinese government firms have won contracts for the building of airports and seaports.
Modi also made an announcement about an agreement with Seychelles for developing infrastructure on Assumption island.
India has been providing help to the Seychelles with ocean mapping for protecting its exclusive economic zone and has provided aircrafts as well as launching a radar project. It, however, had not been directly involved in the country’s infrastructure.
Modi commented that 90% of India’s trade and oil imports are transported via sea and as the country’s economy expands more on an international level it would become more and more dependent on the ocean.
"Thus, the Indian ocean region is among the top of our list of policy priorities," he further added.
The Seychelles have been considered by China for a resupply port for the country’s vessels involved in anti-piracy operations.
Modi is to appear in Sri Lanka on Friday, during his Indian Ocean tour’s final leg.