India on Monday extended a $50-million line of credit and a $25-million grant to Seychelles during President Pratibha Patil's ongoing three-day visit here in a bid to forge economic and strategic ties with this island nation in the Indian Ocean. It has also offered to set up a mono rail project, a solar power cluster and a dam in this country of 116 islands.

At the end of the bilateral talks between the countries, Secretary (West) M. Ganapathy said the President's first leg of the 10-day visit to Seychelles and South Africa has been received as a “special moment” in this island nation. He said various issues of bilateral and regional importance were discussed during the meeting of Ms. Patil with Seychelles President James Alex Michel at the State House on the second day of her visit.

To show its intent to help Seychelles out economically, India extended a line of credit and a grant. Now, Seychelles would have to revert with how it intends to use these. The official said India would also help establish the financial and online service sector and the laying of an under sea optical fibre network by June would assist in taking a step forward.

In the field of environment protection and renewable energy, India would be setting up a solar power cluster. Besides, for promoting human resource development, it would reserve 41 slots or seats in various graduate, post-graduate and other programmes for students of Seychelles.

India would also promote infrastructure and public transport by conducting a feasibility study for a mono rail system on the main island of Mahe.

In defence cooperation, the official said India had in February offered to provide one more Dornier aircraft. It would also be setting up a Coastal Surveillance Radar System with the Automatic Identification System through Bharat Electronics Limited within the next six to eight months. This would help track unidentified vessels in the seas and help curb piracy.

Following the meeting with the President of Seychelles, Ms. Patil also received the Vice President and other Cabinet Ministers. Two agreements related to Youth and Sports Affairs and training of Seychelles police personnel by Bureau of Police Research and Development were also signed. Ms. Patil expressed satisfaction over the present state of economic-commercial relations between the two countries but noted that “considerable opportunities still exist for further expansion, particularly in the areas of trade and economic cooperation.”

In his response, Mr. Michel said: “All Indian Ocean states have been affected by piracy and this scourge has also had an impact on trade around the world.”

Mr. Michel thanked India for its “support in the fight against piracy” and said “we look forward to the installation of the new radar system, which will better protect our ocean.”

Ms. Patil also addressed the National Assembly of Seychelles in its new building, in what the Ministry of External Affairs termed as an “opportunity of commitment of the world's largest democracy to the world's smallest democracy.”

The President said the issue of piracy, though not new, had brought a new dimension to the threat terrorism posed to the peaceful Indian Ocean.

“This is affecting India as well as Seychelles, and many other countries by threatening the security of our sea-lanes of trade and communication. India acknowledges the immense courage and conviction demonstrated by Seychelles in tackling the problem of piracy, ” the President said.

Ms. Patil said: “India would continue to extend cooperation to Seychelles in the fight against piracy, as has been the case during the last few years,” adding that Indian naval ships make regular visits to Seychelles to safeguard the Exclusive Economic Zone of Seychelles.

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