From February 20 to 23 India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar visited the Maldives and Mauritius. The visit was marked by the signing of important agreements to boost defence, economic and developmental co-operation between India and these two Indian Ocean island nations.
These two countries are at the receiving end of the geopolitical rivalries being played out in the Indian Ocean, and hence India’s engagement with these countries matters.
Since 2018, the Maldives has been following an ‘India First’ policy and the two countries have built a strong partnership. Building on it, India and the Maldives signed an agreement to ‘develop, support and maintain’ a coast guard harbour at Sifvaru.
It is expected to enhance the capability of the Maldivian defence forces to patrol and monitor the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as well as other islands of this tiny nation. India also extended a $50 million line of credit (LOC) to the Maldives for defence projects.
In Mauritius, an agreement was signed for a $100 million LOC for the purchase of defence assets from India. India also offered a Dornier aircraft and an Advanced Light Helicopter for two years. It is expected to strengthen the capabilities of Mauritius to monitor its maritime domain effectively. In his press statement, Jaishankar said that the “security of Mauritius is the security of India”.
Framing Mauritian security with India’s own security underscores the key role of Mauritius for India in the Indian Ocean.