Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirms Indian PM Narendra Modi's visit to Seychelles
The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, addresses a crowd in India. The Prime Minister will arrive in the Seychelles on March 10 and will leave the next day. (Narendra Modi/Flickr)
(Seychelles News Agency) - The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seychelles has today confirmed to SNA the impending official visit of the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, to the Indian Ocean archipelago of 90,000 people.
Contacted for an email interview, the Principal Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Maurice Lousteau-Lalanne told SNA that the Ministry had since last week met with officials from the Indian High Commission in Seychelles to prepare for Prime Minister Modi’s visit, unconfirmed rumours of which had been circulating in the Indian press since mid-February.
MFA has confirmed that Modi will arrive in the evening on Tuesday 10 March and will depart the next day, Wednesday 11 March. Lousteau-Lalanne said the PM’s itinerary had not yet been finalised but said the Indian dignitary would certainly have a busy schedule while in the Seychelles.
The recently-elected Prime Minister will next week be embarking on a whistle-stop tour of several Indian Ocean island states, beginning with Sri Lanka before stopping in the Seychelles for a brief visit and then jetting off to Mauritius for the last leg of his tour.
A diplomatic bone of contention
The official confirmation of Modi's visit comes just three days after the Seychelles Attorney-General's office confirmed to SNA that it had charged two Indian nationals accused of illegal fishing in Seychelles territorial waters while nineteen crew members were released for repatriation.
On January 28, two Indian-flagged fishing vessels were intercepted in Seychelles waters by the Seychelles Coast Guard. Nineteen crew members of the vessels were detained in their vessels at the Port of Victoria while M. Jerine and S. Gracious, the captains of the two vessels, were remanded in judicial custody.
The two captains were charged on Monday under the Fisheries Act of 1986, which was recently amended in January this year to carry a maximum penalty of 2.5 million Seychelles rupees (around $180,000) per vessel.
The remaining fishermen were released and according to a report published on Tuesday by the Times of India, are expected to arrive home by Wednesday night, although the fate of the two vessels and their captains remain unknown. Their court hearing will be held in the Supreme Court on March 13.
Diplomatic efforts to secure the release of the fishermen were stepped up after families of the fishermen delivered a petition to top Indian officials, including Prime Minister Modi, at the beginning of February.
|Two Indian-flagged vessels suspected of illegal fishing in Seychelles waters, 'Rehoboth' (pictured) and 'Jersh-Max', were apprehended by the coast guard just over a month after two Iranian vessels were intercepted. (Seychelles Coast Guard) Photo license: CC-BY|
An ‘important partnership’
Despite recent tensions over the fishermen, India’s bilateral cooperation with the Seychelles has been ongoing since the Indian Ocean island nation gained independence in 1976, mainly in the field of health, education, defence and maritime security, the most recent being a patrol ship which the Indian government gave to the Seychelles Coast Guard to better patrol its extensive Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
There are currently two noteworthy bilateral areas of cooperation between the two nations: an ongoing hydrography project, which deals with measuring the topography of the oceans and coastal areas around the archipelago, as well as a possible upcoming project to strengthen the Seychelles’ energy sector.
“As such, we will definitely be signing at least two agreements in the fields of hydrography and energy security,” said the principal secretary.
“India has always been a natural and historical ally of Seychelles. Our relations are based on mutual respect and forged on the principles of international peace, security and collaboration,” said Lousteau-Lalanne. “Prime Minister Modi’s visit is further testament to that fact and will give us an opportunity to engage the new Indian administration at the highest levels of government.”
The principal secretary added that Modi’s visit to Seychelles also signified the “great importance” India places on its partnership with Seychelles.
“It is an excellent example of how the largest and one of the smallest democracies in the world can build lasting partnerships irrespective of changes in administration,” he said.
The Indian prime minister is reported to be already gearing up for a state visit to China in early April, where discussions around the trade and security-related Maritime Silk Road, a brainchild of the Chinese government and a potential source of diplomatic tension between India and China, are set to take centre stage.