Seychelles might be a tiny island country when compared to a gigantic India, but its strategic location in the Indian Ocean makes it an extremely valuable ally of New Delhi

Little wonder then that its President Danny Faure was accorded a grand ceremonial welcome by PM Narendra Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind. China’s muscular policy in the Indian Ocean region and its debt-trap schemes for countries like Sri Lanka and the Maldives have forced India to renew its ties with neighbours.

Days before President Faure’s India visit, he had articulated his country’s opposition to India setting up a naval base at the island. However, what could have become an impasse was resolved amicably with both countries agreeing to cooperate in key areas such as defence and security.

India’s commitment to boosting Seychelles’s defence capabilities and maritime infrastructure, including its offer of surveillance aircraft, is also about securing its own presence in the region, where international crimes like piracy, drugs and human trafficking are rampant.

India has also stressed on the need to enhance people-to-people contact because PM Modi’s soft-power diplomacy is unparalleled in the world. Such was the camaraderie that President Faure even sang to PM Modi. India needs to pursue a strong maritime policy, which will involve sustained engagement with the small island countries and keeping a close watch on China’s activities.

During the Maldives crisis, Beijing had promptly deployed warships to prevent India from taking a decisive step. With Seychelles, India enjoys a deep-rooted and historical relationship, which will come in handy if China tries to employ strong-arm tactics. The six agreements that PM Modi signed with President Faure will influence the course of bilateral relations.