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Indian Ocean Assumptions

Satellite image of Seychelles
Seychelles president Danny Faure's June 25 visit to New Delhi will be closely watched. India's plans to enhance presence in the western Indian Ocean received a jolt when Faure announced on June 4 that the joint plans for the development of Assumption Island "would not move forward". The agreement, to develop air and naval facilities on the island that could be used by both the Seychelles and Indian military, was inked in 2015 during PM Narendra Modi's visit to Victoria but saw little movement forward.
A revised version, initialled in January this year, again fell afoul of the island nation's turbulent internal politics. In March this year, copies of the two agreements were leaked online, leading to a furore in the Indian Ocean atoll. Faure then announced that Seychelles would develop the 11 sq. km. coral island on its own. The Seychelles has depended on countries like India to patrol its exclusive economic zone of 1.3 million sq. km.
The location of the bean-shaped island at the northern end of the Mozambique Channel, one of the vital choke-points allowing ships access to the Indian Ocean, makes it a vital toehold in India's Indian Ocean Region (IOR) naval strategy of offsetting China's presence in the region.
Defence officials term the western IOR, bound by countries like Mozambique, Kenya, the Seychelles and Mauritius as one of the few overseas regions with a confluence of Indian soft power, hard power and an influential diaspora. Indian warships make frequent overseas deployments to the region and have cultivated close ties with the small island nations of the IOR. While India is yet to get official intimation of the cancellation, policymakers in New Delhi are still hopeful. There are deal sweeteners like generous lines of credit and gifts of patrol craft and airplanes in the offing.
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