Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Island Issues

Indian Ocean: Mauritius Sweetens India Trade Deal with Two Islands

The tiny nation of Mauritius has taken drastic measures to preserve an advantageous relationship with India – the government has offered up two gorgeous tropical isles as a bargaining chip.

(South Agalega Island, Mauritius)

One of the gems of the Indian Ocean, Mauritius is found just to the south of the Seychelles – which gives a good idea of just how beautiful this island nation is. These days, the country is a popular vacation spot for globe-trotters looking for luxury off the beaten path, dotted with premier resorts and chic restaurants. Considered a developing-world success story, Mauritians enjoys a high standard of living and open democracy, with the added benefit of being ranked the best-governed country in Africa.

The history of Mauritius, however, shows that its current enviable status has been hard-earned.  Plantation slavery dominated its economy until the mid-19th century, and the country was variously under Dutch, British and French control until it won a battle for self-determination in 1968. The end to hundreds of years of colonial rule came peacefully, and Mauritius quickly set about building international relationships and turning itself into prosperous, forward-thinking nation.

Trade relationships for Mauritius are so important, in fact, that it recently made a surprising offer, thought to be intended to keep a beneficial  taxation and trade arrangement with India – the government offered up two islands on the bargaining table. The Mauritian foreign affairs minister, Arvin Boolell, said publicly that India could use the two islands – North and South Agalega – however it wished, including hotel and resort development, scientific centres, or to bolster India’s security presence in the pirate-plagued region.

(Satellite View of the Agalega Islands)

The two islands are a distant 1,100 km north of Mauritius, just outside of the Seychelles’ territory, and have a small population of 300 spread out over 2,600 hectares. Beautiful and lush, the North and South islands are mostly unexploited, aside from a thriving coconut oil industry.  The prospect of India taking possession of the islands was brought up previously, in 2006, and from the recent news, it appears to be gathering steam.

The Mauritian government believes that India’s acquisition of the Agelegas would also give a general boost to the region and its ocean-based economy, termed as the “Blue Economy”. “We want investment to flow into Mauritius. India can use Mauritius as a springboard for investment (to Africa) and locally,” said Boolell when questioned about the deal. For its part, India has been taking an active role in the security of the Indian Ocean and its trade routes, and a base on North and South Agelega might be a very compelling prospect indeed.

Read more about this story: India Times

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