Antony to visit Seychelles, defence cooperation on agenda

New Delhi, July 12 (Calcutta Tube) Close on the visit by External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, Defence Minister A.K. Antony will be in Seychelles for a two-day trip beginning July 18 for talks with the archipelago nation on strengthening India’s strategic ties in the southern Indian Ocean.

Antony will be accompanied by a high-level delegation, including Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar and Vice Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral D.K. Dewan, a defence spokesman said Monday.

The minister ‘will have discussions with the Seychellois leadership on bilateral defence cooperation and implementation of the provisions of the defence cooperation pact between both countries’, the spokesperson said.

The two sides will discuss various security issues, including the maritime security situation in the Indian Ocean region, particularly in the context of the spread of piracy in and from the Gulf of Aden, he said.

‘They will also explore the possibility of cooperation to combat this menace,’ the spokesman said.

The increasing incidents of attacks by Somali pirates on commercial ships, cruise liners and private boats have severely disrupted the economy of the islands spread out on area of 1,374,000 sq km, with a population of just 84,000 people.

India has been regularly sending warships to the Seychelles for surveillance, the last being INS Savitri which also made port calls to Mauritius and the Maldives.

Defence has been an area of close cooperation between the two nations, with most of the senior officers of the Seychelles People’s Defence Forces and Seychelles Coast Guard trained by India. There are also several Indian defence officials from the army and navy stationed as advisors in the Seychelles.

Seychelles President James Michel visited India last month. External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna during his visit to Mozambique and Mauritius earlier this month had a brief overnight stop-over in the island nation.

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