Indian PM Narendra Modi inspects the Guard of Honour, at the Ceremonial Reception, in Seychelles on March 11.(Photo M.Asokan -Indian Prime Minister's Office)
March 20, 2015 By Oscar Nkala – Defense News
GABORONE, Botswana — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has activated the first of the Indian Navy's planned 32 coastal surveillance radar (CSR) stations in the Seychelles, marking the beginning of the rollout of an Indian-led maritime surveillance project set to have stations in the Seychelles, the Maldives, Mauritius and Sri Lanka.
Modi activated the radar system during his recent tour of the Seychelles as he visited key Indian Ocean region allies in a move some military strategists view as an effort to forge a strong alliance to counter aggressive expansion by the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in the region since October.
Addressing senior Indian Navy and Seychelles Coast Guard officers during the commissioning, Modi said India's plan includes setting up radar stations in the Seychelles, Mauritius and the Maldives. Negotiations to set up at least 10 more in Sri Lanka are ongoing.
He said the CSRs will improve the operational capabilities of the maritime security forces of partner nations and the overall security of the exclusive economic zones which make up the region's "blue economy."
"We regard Seychelles as a vital partner in our Indian Ocean neighborhood. Our relationship is unique and special. It is founded on a deep sense of mutual trust and confidence. Our security partnership is strong and has enabled us to fulfill our shared responsibility to advance maritime security in the region," he said.
"It is a privilege to be a partner of the Seychelles in the development of its security capabilities. We also hope that Seychelles will soon be a full partner in the maritime security cooperation between India, Maldives and Sri Lanka," Modi said.
Regional defense analysts say that once completed, the 32-station surveillance project will enable the Indian Navy, through its allies, to monitor the movements of all ships operating in the Indian Ocean.
Modi pledged to donate a second Dornier maritime surveillance aircraft to boost the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities of the Seychelles Coast Guard.
India donated the first Dornier (Do 228) aircraft and some naval vessels to the Seychelles in mid-2013. Seychelles President James Michel said the stations are proof of his country's exemplary defense and security relationship with India.
"Everybody recognizes India's footprints on many facets of our economic, social and cultural development. We have an exemplary partnership in the defense and security sectors.
"This is very much reflected in our fight against piracy and the joint patrolling of our oceans and also the training of our defense personnel. We are very encouraged by the willingness of the government and people of India to work with us in the context of the development of our blue economy,"
In addition to the newly commissioned CSR on the main island of Mahe, more will be installed on the smaller islands of Farqhuar, Astove and Assumption. All are expected to be commissioned into service between July and August.
In neighboring Mauritius, Modi signed an agreement to set up eight Indian-controlled CSR stations and pledged to continue strengthening the Mauritius Coast Guard with new aircraft, naval vessels and Indian training for its seamen.
The IOR surveillance project is widely seen as India's response to China's aggressive new operations in the region. In January, the Chinese Ministry of National Defense said it will step up the deployment of Navy vessels in the area to protect its security and economic interests while contributing to regional international anti-piracy operations.
The Indian move follows recent reports suggesting that China is pushing for the establishment of at least 18 deepwater ports with African and Asian littoral states to set up bases and maintenance yards for vessels.