Seychelles President Danny Faure says his government has cancelled the security cooperation agreement signed early this year for the establishment of an Indian naval base on the remote island of Assumption.
Addressing the media during his second presidential conference of 2018 on June 8, President Faure said the construction of the Indian naval base will not ‘move forward’.
Instead, the Seychelles Coast Guard (SCG) will, in 2019, start setting up its own base on Assumption, one of the many land masses of the 115-island archipelago on the Indian Ocean.
“In next year’s budget, we will put aside funds for us to build a (Seychelles) Coast Guard facility on Assumption ourselves. It is important to ensure that we have a military post in this area,” Faure said.
Further, he said the Indian naval base proposal is not on the agenda of the meetings due to hold with Indian President Narendra Modi in the next few days. President Faure gave no reasons for the cancellation of the security deal with India, which has a long history of training and equipping the security forces in the Seychelles, Mauritius and Madagascar.
In March, reports that the Seychelles government had signed up for the construction of the Indian Navy base triggered mass opposition, leading to protests and pickets by locals opposed to the proposed Indian military presence.
The cancellation of the Indian navy base agreement came a month after French Army South Indian Ocean Zone (FAZSOI) Commander Eric Vidaud and President Faure agreed to ‘re-develop and renew’ military and security ties between the two nations.
Commander Vidaud said the French could train local forces in maritime security operations in order to secure the borders and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) against piracy, kidnappings, drug trafficking and transnational terrorism.
The meeting also discussed a French proposal for the establishment of the first Indian Ocean regional hub for the coordination of maritime surveillance in the Seychelles. Vidaud said due to its strategic position in the IOR, the Seychelles would be an ideal host for the regional maritime security hub.
“We want the (maritime security) centre to become operational as soon as possible. The centre will be able to designate a vessel in a shorter limit of time to counter any illegal activities in the Indian Ocean,” said Vidaud.
The Seychelles government has not commented on the French proposal as yet. French ambassador to Seychelles Lionel Majesté-Larrouy said France needs a military presence in the Seychelles in order to exert the “prerogative of the State” to protect the large number of French citizens in IOR states.
The French South Indian Ocean Zone (FAZSOI) force is primarily mandated to protect the national security and territorial integrity of the French ‘overseas departments’ of Mayotte and Reunion. Its secondary role includes anti-piracy operations and the prevention of illegal immigration in the IOR.