Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Chinese base in the Seychelles

"In December 2011 rumours started floating around that the government of the Seychelles had offered to host two or three military reconnaissance bases to Chinese vessels and personnel. Jean-Paul Adam, Foreign Affairs Minister, stated that his country needed greater support in combating piracy in its surrounding waters. Beijing did say that it is considering the offer but reiterated that the country is not planning to establish foreign military bases.
A permanent Chinese military presence in the Seychelles makes geopolitical sense because of the archipelago's position in the Indian Ocean, which is emerging as a major conduit of east-west trade and Asia-Africa trade. Twenty-two thousand vessels per year cruise in the northern Indian Ocean. The island is thus a logical stepping stone between resources-rich Africa and the vast consumer market of Asia. Chinese investments in Africa have been rising rapidly over the past decade. Protecting, or accompanying, shipments of iron ore, zinc, crude oil etc... from the continent during its perilous voyage to North Asia seems to be a valid motive to establish a naval base in the Seychelles. A small country of 85,000 people, the Seychelles has a history of military cooperation with India and the US. The Indian navy regularly visits its ports while India trains its police and defense forces. The US operates reconnaissance drones in the region through its large base in Diego Garcia, less than 2,000 km from Victoria, the capital of the Seychelles. Thus, by allowing a Chinese military presence on its territory, the Seychelles would hardly be granting Beijing a unique arrangement. "

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