India and its key Indian Ocean Region partner Mauritius on Monday upgraded their defence and economic partnership by signing a special $100 million pact for supplying defence equipment. The two countries also entered into a comprehensive economic cooperation and partnership agreement (CECPA) that will enable smooth entry of Indian businesses to the African continent.

Mauritius has been a traditional defence partner of India for decades and has been the recipient of defence equipment for safeguarding its interest. The special $100 million defence line of credit signed on Monday will enable the procurement of defence assets from India as per the needs of Mauritius.

India also decided to provide a Dornier aircraft and an Advanced Light Helicopter Dhruv on lease to Mauritius on gratis basis for two years, helping shore up its capabilities to patrol and monitor its extensive maritime domain more effectively.

The agreements were signed during the visit of foreign minister S Jaishankar to Mauritius. Speaking on the occasion, Jaishankar affirmed, “These initiatives underline once again that the security of Mauritius is the security of India; in the prosperity of Mauritius is our prosperity”.

The two sides also signed CECPA to enable Indian investors to use Mauritius as a launch-pad for business expansion into continental Africa.

“India is privileged to have entered into a comprehensive economic cooperation and partnership agreement with Mauritius. This agreement is India’s first-such agreement with an African country as noted by the prime minister. It will provide a timely boost for the revival of our post-Covid economies and also enable Indian investors to use Mauritius as a launch-pad for business expansion into continental Africa, helping the prospect of Mauritius emerging as a ‘hub of Africa’,” Jaishankar pointed out.

The CECPA provides preferential access to Mauritius for bulk of the trade and also for many aspirational items for the future into the Indian market of over a billion people. These include frozen fish, speciality sugar, biscuits, fresh fruits, juices, mineral water, soaps, bags, medical and surgical equipment, and apparel. The current global imports of India on these products is well over $15 billion. “This is therefore a significant opportunity for Mauritius to benefit from access to the Indian market. Just to illustrate some of the benefits, Mauritius will get preferential access for export of 40,000 tonnes of sugar into India at an early time frame. Similarly, there will also be access for the export of 7.5 million pieces of apparel,” the minister said.

As regards trade in services, India has offered 95 sub-sectors from 11 broad services sectors. “Services contribute, I believe, 76% of the GDP of Mauritius, and CECPA will surely boost the dynamism of the services sector in Mauritius. The CECPA could also facilitate Indian investment in the services sector in Mauritius, especially in the ICT sector as Indian companies could benefit by leveraging the bilingual prowess of Mauritius for investments in Francophone Africa,” the minister said.

Both sides have also agreed to negotiate an Automatic Trigger Safeguard Mechanism (ATSM) for a limited number of highly sensitive products within two years of CECPA.

India is the largest development cooperation partner of Mauritius with focus on people-oriented projects. A special economic package of $353 million was extended to Mauritius in 2016 as grant assistance for five key infra-projects including the Metro Express project, social housing project, supreme court building, ENT hospital and the e-tablet project. An Indian government-supported line of credit of $500 million was also extended to Mauritius in 2017 for various infrastructure projects.

In July 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister of Mauritius Pravind Jugnauth jointly e-inaugurated the new Supreme Court building in Mauritius built with India grant assistance. In October 2019, both prime ministers had jointly inaugurated the phase-1 of the landmark Metro Express project and a new ENT hospital in Mauritius.