On 29 May Seychelles President Danny Faure received Brigadier General Éric Vidaud, Superior Commander of the French Armed Forces in the southern region of the Indian Ocean (COMSUP FAZSOI).
They discussed ways to enhance cooperation in fight against of drug traffics, terrorism, illegal fishing and piracy in the region. This will work through enhanced intelligence sharing, the provision of French expertise in these matters and the establishment of a centre for coordination and surveillance of maritime activities – which could include the formation of Seychelles parachutists. “(…) Drug traffics and illegal fishing are common to all the islands in the region. We’re working with the authorities to develop common training to protect the borders from [them]”, said the Commander.
Indeed, some 8040 km away from Paris, France and the Seychelles share a 1360-long maritime border! The French archipelago of the Glorioso Islands – essentially a marine protected area – bears no other facilities than an air strip, a couple of barracks and one of the remotest French graveyards But the small territory provides France with a 18,670 sq mi Economic Exclusive Zone (ZEE) north of Madagascar. It borders the EEZ of the 155-island Archipelago that forms the Seychelles. Fifteen French soldiers are permanently based on it: “our presence here is of a dissuasive nature”, explained Colonel Rémi Bariéty from the Légion Etrangère, “[it aims] to stop illegal activities from being committed and preventing the island of being used as a back base for [traffics]”.
Cooperation in such domains between Paris and Victoria isn’t new. France has long been present in this region thanks to its overseas territories, especially La Réunion and Mayotte, and is therefore an actor of the stability there. For instance back in 2014, eleven men from the 2nd Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment were received by the Seychelles to provide training to the members of the Seychelles armed forces, the Seychelles People Defense Force and, in 2013, a team of French military radar specialists helped enabling a Seychelles naval monitoring system.
As China is building ports or bases around the Indian Ocean, everyone seems to have noticed the fact that U.S. Pacific Command would now be called U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, in a move to counter Chinese economic and military pressure in the region. As US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis: “all nations large and small are essential to the region, in order to sustain stability in ocean areas critical to global peace.” And Paris and Victoria are just part of that.
Written by ADIT – The Bulletin and republished with permission.