NEW DELHI: With 67 per cent population of Indian origin, a prime minister with Indian roots, Hinduism as the most-followed religion and a common colonial ruler with which it had to fight for independence, Mauritius is a little India away from India, in the African continent.
The country is India’s closest ally in the Indian Ocean region and both nations share the warmth of blood ties that bind their people together. On March 12, Mauritius celebrated its National Day and to mark it, a deck reception was organised onboard the Indian Navy’s First Training Squadron Ship the next day. A commissioning ceremony of the new Advanced Light Helicopter MK III, delivered by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, was held on 15 March.
Both countries share a common outlook on matters of maritime security. Mauritius plays major role in India’s efforts to keep the Indian Ocean safe and secure from pirates and from being dominated by non democratic forces.
Being an island nation, enhanced naval capability is of critical importance to Mauritius also. This is where India plays a big role. It has been helping Mauritius develop its security apparatus and infrastructure for the past several years.
India has traditionally been the ‘first responder’ for Mauritius in times of crisis, including during the Covid-19. On Mauritius’s request, India supplied medicines and doctors to Port Louis to help combat the pandemic in AprilMay 2020.
In recent years, India has stepped up its engagement with the African nation. Early this month, Mauritius’s Minister of Land Transport and Light Rail Alan Ganoo met India’s Minister for Road Transport & Highways Nitin Gadkari. Then Mauritius’s Commerce Minister Soodesh Satkam Callichurn came to meet India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal.
In February, Union Minister for Housing & Urban Affairs, Hardeep Singh Puri met his Mauritian counterpart Louis Steven Obeegadoo. Union External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s visit to the island nation in February 2021 strengthened the partnership across economic, health, and security spheres.
A Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement (CECPA) was signed during his visit which was the first of its kind agreement that India has signed with any country in Africa.
The agreement has had a tremendous economic impact on the bilateral trade which increased from $690 million in 2019-20 to $786.72 million in 2021-22.
Cumulative foreign direct investment (FDI) worth $161 billion came from Mauritius to India between 2000 and 2022, which is 26 per cent of the total FDI inflows into India. Mauritius is India’s third largest source of FDI. In return, India provides all possible financial support to Mauritius when needed. In May 2016, India provided a grant of $353 million as a special economic package for five priority projects: (i) Metro Express Project; (ii) Supreme Court Building; (iii) New ENT Hospital; (iv) Social Housing project; (v) Digital Tablets for school children.
Other completed India-assisted projects include the Upadhyay Training Centre, the Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital, the Subramania Bharati Eye Centre, the Rajiv Gandhi Science Centre, the Swami Vivekananda International Conference Centre and the World Hindi Secretariat.
House of diaspora
Mauritius is India’s significant partner in celebrating Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas which is a forum for issues concerning the diaspora.
There are approximately 17,403 Indian nationals and 10,274 Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) card holders in Mauritius. There is a special carve-out for OCI Cards for Mauritian nationals, with Indian lineage traceable up to the sixth generation. Mauritius introduced a visa-free regime in 2004 for Indian tourists visiting the island nation for a month. Mauritians are entitled to free e-tourist visa for visiting India.
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