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Dattatreaya Nimbalkar asked: What is the strategic importance of Seychelles Island in the Indian Ocean Region and for India?

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  • Abhay Kumar Singh replies: In maritime geopolitics, the strategic salience of islands is defined by their location, which makes them vital for establishing a regional naval presence, and their proximity to sea lines of communications (SLOCs), which facilitates patrolling in the region during times of peace and conflict. As the Indian Ocean has become the new global centre of trade and energy flows, the importance of smaller yet strategically-located island nations like Seychelles, Maldives, Mauritius and Sri Lanka has further grown. These islands are vital to and can facilitate the navy’s continuous presence along key international shipping routes, allowing the navy to patrol and secure SLOCs during peace times and interdict and cut off an adversary’s communications during times of conflict. Such presence allows the navy to project power, increasing its profile as a net security provider.

    Located at the crossroads of Africa, West Asia (the Middle East) and India, Seychelles possesses outsized geostrategic importance despite its small landmass of just 452 sq km and a population of about 98,000. Since the Cold War, Seychelles has been a strategic destination for several major powers with vested interests in the region. Its geostrategic importance remains undiminished in contemporary times.  

    For India, the island nations of the Indian Ocean hold immense strategic value in shaping the geopolitical contours of the region and ensuring maritime security and order. A strong governance and security architecture in the Indian Ocean is not only necessary but ought to be a global priority. India’s strategic vision for the Indian Ocean Region is enshrined in “SAGAR – Security and Growth for All in the Region.” It articulates India’s vision for building a secured regional architecture, which includes “safeguarding mainland and islands, strengthening capacities of maritime neighbours and advancing peace and security” in the Indian Ocean Region.

    India has constantly reiterated that Seychelles is central to its SAGAR vision. India’s bilateral engagement with Seychelles has evolved over historical contacts and continuous support for the latter’s security. An elaborate architecture of defence and security cooperation has evolved over the years to combat the growing piracy menace and other economic offences in the strategic Indian Ocean region.

    Posted on July 12, 2021

    Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or the Government of India.