The Indian Navy has dispatched one of its most advanced maritime patrol/anti-submarine warfare aircraft, the P-8I Neptune, to Seychelles for aerial surveillance of the island nation’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), an Indian Ministry of Defense press statement reveals.
The aircraft has been deployed since March 20 in accordance with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the governments of India and Seychelles, an archipelago and country in the Indian Ocean, and will continue to conduct surveillance flights until March 23. This is the first time that the Indian Navy has dispatched its most modern maritime patrol aircraft to Seychelles.
“The Indian Navy [IN] has, in the past, undertaken surveillance missions in the Seychellois EEZ twice a year, by deploying IN ships. The last such deployment was undertaken by ships of the 1st Training Squadron of the Indian Navy, in Oct 15. This is the first time that the P8I aircraft has been deployed to Seychelles,” the press release notes.
“The aircraft will remain deployed till 23 Mar 16. During this period, the aircraft will undertake surveillance of the Seychellois EEZ. In addition, the deployment will facilitate professional interaction between the aircrew and the Seychelles People’s Defense Force (SPDF),” it adds. “This deployment would assist in curbing illegal activities and piracy as well as contribute towards security and stability in the Indian Ocean Region.”
India and Seychelles have been steadily improving defense ties over the last years. Seychelles recently agreed to allocate land on Assumption Island for India to build its first naval base in the Indian Ocean region. “This is a joint project between India and Seychelles involving our two Defense Forces in enhancing our mutual security along our western seaboard. Seychelles is absolutely committed to the project,” the President of Seychelles, James Michel, told The Hindu.
Among other things, India is also slated to set up its own coastal radar system in the country. In addition, both countries recently concluded the seventh installment of a joint military exercise aimed to strengthen cooperation between their armed forces in particular in dealing with security threats emerging from the maritime domain.
Indeed, one of the primary reasons for the recent deployment of the P-8I Neptune is the ongoing threat posed by pirates operating off the coast of Somalia threatening vital shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean. “Both India and Seychelles have a vested interest in securitizing the Western Indian Ocean. We have forged a partnership that has gone a fair distance in eradicating the scourge of Somalia-based piracy as well as other maritime security issues,” Michel has said.
However, the larger reason behind New Delhi’s push is to check China’s growing maritime expansion into the Indian Ocean. Beijing is constructing its first overseas naval base in Djibouti and has been more aggressively patrolling the Indian Ocean over the last few months. As I reported in January (See: “Indian Ocean: India Deploys New Sub Killer Planes to Counter Chinese Subs”), India also recently deployed two P-8I at a military base in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, located in the eastern Indian Ocean, as a response to repeated forays of Chinese conventional and nuclear submarines into the Indian Ocean.