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India boosting naval capabilities of Mauritius

Fast interceptors in Mauritius. Following an official visit of Indian President Ramnath Kovind to Mauritius on 12 March, it was announced that India would provide the island state with an extra $100 million credit line toward military capability-building, as part of the Indian Ocean Region Outreach, which focuses on maritime security, amongst others.

Under this deal Mauritius will use the money to acquire another offshore patrol vessel from India. This is an extension of a previous $46 million credit line granted in 2014, which had funded the Mauritius Coast Guard’s procurement of 10 fast interceptor boats (FIBs) and two fast attack craft from state-owned Indian shipbuilder Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL).

Defense and naval cooperation is central in the Indian-Mauritian partnership. India is a critical supporter of the Mauritian security forces and coast guard. Not only does it play a central role in Mauritian capability-building – in 2015 it donated an offshore patrol vessel, the Barracuda, and provided it with two surveillance aircraft in 2012 - it’s also directly involved in Mauritian defence: it provides military training to Mauritian forces, patrol services in Mauritian waters , and takes part in the command of Mauritian forces.

Beyond defence, the two states enjoy excellent overall relations. India plays a critical role in Mauritian development; for instance it granted it a $500 million credit line in May 2017, during a visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, toward development of civilian infrastructure. A similar $500 million credit line had already been granted in 2015.

The two states have bilateral agreements in many fields such air services, information and technology, anti-terrorism, exchange of intelligence related to money laundering, extraditions and several others. Commercial relations are healthy (though obviously unbalanced). India is Mauritius’s largest trading partner. In FY 2014-2015 India exported goods worth $1.9 billion to Mauritius and imported goods worth $21.19 million from it. Also, an Indian-Mauritian Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement spans over goods, services, investments and economics.

Why such good relations? For small Mauritius, it was only rational to seek safety and development through an alliance with its giant neighbour, following its independence in 1968. But what’s in it for India? A strategic advantage in its arm-wrestling with China in the Indian Ocean, of course. As President Kovind accurately put it after the visit, “Mauritius is a gateway to the Indian Ocean Region and to Africa”.

Written by ADIT – The Bulletin and republished with permission.

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