Maintaining the tradition of frequent high level visits to each others’ countries; President Ram Nath Kovind was on a significant visit to the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius to celebrate the golden jubilee of its’ independence from Britain. The Indian Air Force, on the occasion presented a scintillating fly-past by its ‘Sarang’ Helicopter aerobatics display team, which enthralled the people of Mauritius.
Addressing the golden jubilee event, President Kovind described Mauritius as a gateway to the Indian Ocean region and to Africa. Describing Mauritius as proverbial ‘Star’ and the key to the Indian Ocean, the Indian President said Mauritius has a natural convergence of interests with India and added that our cooperation in maritime security and counter terrorism has been exemplary.
With a population of 1.27 million, around two thirds of whom are of Indian origin, it was very appropriate that the Mauritius government decided to invite the Indian President to be the Chief Guest for the national event to celebrate the 50thanniversary of its independence. Thanking the government of Mauritius for inviting him as the Chief Guest during the Independence Day celebrations, President Kovind said that this was a distinct honour for the 1.3 billion people of India.
Mauritius gained independence in 1968, but during the British colonial rule, India had established diplomatic relations with the island nation in 1948. Thousands of Indians reached Mauritius during colonial rule as traders, priests, craftsmen and in 19th and early 20th century over 450,000 Indians arrived in Mauritius as indentured labourers to work in the sugar plantations. They have enriched the social, economic and political life of the beautiful rainbow nation, which is also called a heaven on earth. The people of Indian origin have also maintained the rich Indian traditions and kept their culture thriving for over 200 years, in a far away land.
India has a unique and special relationship with Mauritius built on the foundation of strong ‘diaspora’ linkage. The visit of the Indian President provided further momentum to India’s bilateral engagement with the Island nation. India has not only been a major economic and trading partner of Mauritius but has over the years enriched the Mauritian social and economic life though various assistance programmes. Accordingly, during the visit President Kovind launched a project for the supply of e-tablets to primary school children across Mauritius and laid the foundation stone for an ENT Hospital as well as a social housing project. The Indian President inaugurated the new World Hindi Secretariat building funded by Government of India under a special economic package. This was a highlight of the President’s visit.
Over the years India and Mauritius have entered into bilateral agreements covering various fields of cooperation including political, security , defence, trade and economic , science and technology etc. As a result, relations between India and Mauritius have diversified and strengthened to mutual benefit. This is reflected in the regular exchanges at the highest political level. Mauritius has supported India in the international fora. Port Louis has been consistent in its support for New Delhi’s candidature for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council.
The strengthening of political ties has had a positive effect on the economic relationship between India and Mauritius. With Indian Ocean gradually becoming an arena for strategic competition for world powers, the strategic location of Mauritius has added to the significance of defence and strategic cooperation between India and Mauritius. Indian naval ships have been making regular port calls to Mauritian ports and have been engaged in maritime surveillance of the Mauritian waters. To strengthen its maritime security Mauritius has also asked India to assist in the development of the Agalega Island, the agreement for which was signed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the Island nation. The infrastructure development projects of Agalega Island and logistical facilities would help Mauritius in protecting its maritime interests.
As the two countries share deep rooted bonds of friendship, culture and history, both countries and people also cherish the ideals of democracy, social harmony and pluralism. In recent years India and Mauritius have evolved a dynamic, mutually beneficial and multi-dimensional partnership building upon inherent strengths and commonalities in our bilateral relations. The Indian President’s visit will catalyze the already strong bilateral ties.
Script: Ranjit Kumar, Diplomatic Editor, Navodaya Times