Seychelles Optimistic on Finding Way Out of India's Assumption Island Project Impasse

The country's opposition may have been adamant that the agreement with India on building naval infrastructure on Assumption island is ‘dead’, there seems to be activity behind the doors.

New Delhi: The Seychelles government has indicated that it may soon announce a way to take forward the parliamentary ratification of the agreement with India on building naval infrastructure on Assumption Island.

In January, India had signed a revised pact with Seychelles on developing facilities on Assumption Island for use by Seychellois and Indian naval forces. The agreement was modified nearly three years after it was first signed, to take into account local political concerns about sovereignty.

As per the Seychelles constitution, any international treaty or agreement can be implemented only after it is ratified by an act or resolution of parliament.

Seychelles has a presidential form of government, but President Danny Faure is currently in a ‘co-habitation’ with the opposition alliance which won the last 2016 parliamentary elections. Therefore, the Seychelles government is dependent on the opposition to ratify this agreement, as the opposition alliance Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (LDS) has the majority in the 33-member parliament.

There had been some protests against Assumption Island project, with weekly rallies by a voluntary organisation in the capital city. The public hearing on the project in February had also seen some feisty scenes.

In an unprecedented security breach, the revised pact, as well as its previous iteration and a letter, was leaked through a YouTube account last month.

Assumtion island, Seychelles. credit: Wikimedia Commons

Assumtion island, Seychelles. credit: Wikimedia Commons

Following the leak of the documents, the leader of the opposition in the Seychelles parliament, Wavel Ramkalawan, changed his previous support to the agreement. He stated that the opposition alliance, LDS would not give support to the agreement “as is”.

Since there was no likelihood of any change in the text after a second revision of the agreement in January, the opposition’s lack of support meant that the government did not table the bilateral pact in the parliament as planned.

The opposition may have been adamant that the agreement is ‘dead’, but there seems to be activity behind closed doors.

Speaking at a press conference last week, Seychelles Vice President Vincent Meriton stated that internal discussions were taking place.

According to the Seychelles News Agency, Meriton was optimistic of finding a way out of the impasse. “A declaration will be made very soon to find a feasible way to build this facility because the country really needs it,” he said.

He also said that the investigation was still ongoing into the leak of the original agreement into social media.

Despite all the bad news about the island project, the Seychelles government unilaterally announced last week that President Faure will visit India in June.

A statement from the presidential office in Victoria on April 5 stated that Faure will travel to India following an invitation from Indian President Ram Nath Kovind. The dates cited for the visit were June 25 and 26.

Faure had actually been in India in March to take part in the inaugural summit of the International Solar Alliance. He had met with the Indian prime minister on March 11 on the summit’s sidelines in Delhi.

According to sources, Faure had then assured the Indian side that he was committed to the Assumption Island project and that his government will steer the pact through the parliament for ratification.

New Delhi believes that the agreement may be in doldrums right now but that it can still be retrieved and implemented. However, there is a deliberate hands-off policy right now from India, with officials pointing out that this was a domestic, political issue which had to be sorted out by the Seychelles government.