A possible insider in the Seychelles government has leaked details of the agreement signed earlier this year with India to build a military facility on Assumption Island in the Indian Ocean.
The leak occurred online on Tuesday when a YouTube user going by the name ‘Partu Kote’ loaded a nine-minute video screed against the planned facility. The upload also included three links to Google Drive files. These contained reproductions of the agreement signed on January 27 of this year, the 2015 draft of the deal and a ‘side letter,’ also from 2015, ‘outlining the conditions under which Indian military personnel would operate on the island,’ according to Devirupa Mitra of The Wire, who first broke the story on Thursday.
The video includes ‘photographs of pages of the classified Detailed Project Report (DPR), which had been commissioned by India and shared with the Seychelles government,’ according to Mitra.
The clip is also filled with foreboding music, red-coloured letters, and exclamation marks. It describes the deal as the ‘mother of all cons’ and accuses Delhi of pursuing ‘an aggressive campaign to control the Indian Ocean’.
‘They say the facility can be used by third nations,’ the video says. ‘Really! Can Pakistan and China use the base?’
The video also cites various environmental concerns and darkly hints that Seychellois politicians have accepted Indian bribes.
The leak came even as Seychelles President Danny Faure backed the deal and called on the country’s National Assembly to ratify it- a constitutional requirement.
Faure’s government had already shared the hitherto secret text of the agreement with the leader of the opposition and the Seychelles’ anti-corruption ombudsman, Mitra reported. Local activists have opposed the deal over the last three years. For Faure, the leak will be especially embarrassing when he attends the International Solar Alliance summit in Delhi on Sunday.
Competition for the Indian Ocean
The proposed facility on Assumption Island is integral to India’s effort to increase its reach in the Indian Ocean Region, partly to protect Indian merchant shipping from pirates, but mostly to track China’s increasing presence in those waters. The Belt and Road Initiative, and in particular the Gwadar port in Balochistan and a base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, could help the PLA Navy operate more easily in the Indian Ocean. In 2014, a Chinese submarine and surface warship docked at Colombo port (Though the Sri Lankans apparently turned down a similar docking request from the Chinese last year).
In March of 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a coastal surveillance radar on Mahe island. During a visit by Modi in February, India and Oman signed a pact giving the Indian Navy access to strategically located port of Duqm. India also reportedly runs a naval listening facility in Ras Al-Hadd, about 500 kilometres north of Duqm.
Finally, the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with the United States allows the Indian Navy to access US naval facilities on Diego Garcia and Djibouti.