A rocket is fired from navy's destroyer NS Ranvir during an exercise drill - India is planning to establish a permanent naval base in the Seychelles to counter China's presence in the region

The fleet of these 71 new buses is expected to reach Seychelles by June, 2018, an Indian government communiqué said

NEW DELHI: With Indian government’s plan to build a naval military station in the strategic island of Assomption in Seychelles caught in the doldrums after the island nation’s Opposition refused to support it, India announced a clutch of sops for the nation on Tuesday.

The sops, valued at about Rs 55 crore, include committed financial support for five civilian projects in Seychelles, of which more than Rs 23 crore would be used for the construction a state-of-the-art magistrate’s court at capital Mahe. It also includes 71 Tata buses for the Seychelles Public Transport Corporation (SPTC), 10 ambulances and the setting up of an emergency response system at the main islands, Mahe, Praslin and La Digue, besides 10 swift response vehicles for the Anti-Narcotics Bureau to combat drug trafficking.

The fleet of these 71 new buses is expected to reach Seychelles by June, 2018, an Indian government communiqué said.

On March 6, this newspaper had reported details of a secret pact signed on January 27 by foreign secretary S. Jaishankar and Barry Faure, Seychelles secretary of state for foreign affairs.

To be valid, the pact has to be ratified by India’s Union Cabinet and by Seychelles’ Cabinet of ministers as well as by the National Assembly.

India has been trying hard to counter China’s “String of Pearls” strategy, a perceived effort to encircle India commercially and militarily by upping its spheres of influence in India’s neighbourhood.

While India will build, maintain, and operate the base, the ownership rights will vest with Seychelles. India will also at its own cost train, deploy Seychellois military personnel and also conduct joint military exercises.

The pact also allows an Indian Navy officer to oversee operations and maintenance of the base while Indian personnel will wear their military uniforms along with personal weapons.

The protests in the island, on environmental grounds, are being led by the :Save the Aldabra Island Group”.