Excellency, tell us about your experience visiting India with Seychelles President Hon’ble Danny Faure.
Answer: For both President Danny Faure and myself, this was not our first visit to India but it was the first State Visit of the President. It was an incredible experience as we had the chance to visit not only Delhi for the official program but also places like Goa, Ahmedabad and Dehradun. We met a number of Seychellois Police officers who were on a short training at the Gujarat Forensic Science University. At Dehradun, we were able to visit the National Forest Academy which is an impressive institution. Throughout our visit, we have been amazed by the vibrant culture and wonderful hospitality of the Indian people. India really is a beautiful country and we felt quite at home there.
Hon’ble Sushma Swaraj, Minister of External Affairs, India recently met the Seychelles President Hon’ble Danny Faure in New Delhi and gifted a second Dornier Aircraft to Seychelles. How do you perceive the importance of this exchange?
Answer: It was a timely gift on the occasion of the National Day of Seychelles, and it demonstrated in a very concrete way the strategic partnership which exists between our two countries. This second aircraft will assist Seychelles in surveillance of its vast EZZ and will be useful in supporting us in maritime security operations. The first Dornier -228 Maritime aircraft was handed over to Seychelles on 31st January 2013 and this has supported us immensely in various operations undertaken by the Seychelles People’s Defence Forces (SPDF).
During your visit you acted as a signatory for an MOU between the Foreign Service Institute of the Ministry of External Affairs of India and the Department of Foreign Affairs of Seychelles. What can you tell us about this MoU?
Answer: This MOU will further enhance cooperation between the department of Foreign Affairs of Seychelles and the Foreign Institute of the Ministry of External Affairs of India. I hope that we can in our way, share our experience with Indian diplomats on issues of concern to us. as island states. Seychelles has been at the forefront in bringing forward issues of pertinence to small Island states in international forum so this is an experience we can share.
The MOU provides for an increase in the number of officials from Seychelles that may benefit from the training offered at the Indian Foreign Service Institute.
Do you think that attempts to cooperate between India and Seychelles will result in definite strengthening of the latter’s defense capabilities and improved maritime security in the IOR?
Answer: For Seychelles, Maritime Security is of utmost importance in the fight against drug smuggling, piracy and other for
ms of maritime crimes. So, we are grateful that India has been a consistent partner in helping Seychelles in this area. We are also being assisted in building our capacity in maritime security by our bilateral and multilateral partners. Our experience during the height of piracy in the Indian Ocean has shown us that without support from all partners, we as a small island state would never have been able to overcome the threat of piracy, which although contained, is still active.
India and Seychelles have been negotiating the establishment of a naval base at Assumption Island in the Indian Ocean Region for quite some time. Both sides have now agreed to respect each other’s concerns and work in cooperation. How do you think this move will further strengthen bilateral relations?
Answer: Assumption has always been a point of strategic importance for Seychelles. This is why in the 1980s, Seychelles built a small airstrip there. To better control our EEZ, we need to have the presence of our coastguard there and we will do so for that reason. We already have a strong relationship with India and they have been a consistent partner in maritime security so I am confident that this will be the case in the future as well.
What is your message to the readers of our magazine Diplomacy and Beyond Plus?
Answer: The articles in ‘Diplomacy and Beyond’ are of the highest standards. They are very analytical, looking at issues from different perspectives. I would like to congratulate you on this.