New Delhi, Feb 2 - Amid China's increased foray into the picturesque Indian Ocean archipelago nation, Seychelles has assured India that it remains its key developmental partner and sought to to intensify bilateral anti-piracy cooperation.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held talks Thursday with Seychelles President James Alix Michel, who is here for the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit, that focused on security issues, piracy and ways to expand developmental cooperation between the two countries.
'Both leaders reaffirmed their close and abiding relationship and India was acknowledged as the main development partner for the Seychelles,' the external affairs ministry said here Thursday.
'The two leaders also discussed issues relating to piracy and its consequent impact on security, tourism and fisheries,' the ministry said.
Michel expressed his gratitude for India's support for Seychelles development and in the fight against piracy.
'Both sides agreed to continue their close cooperation and keep abreast of new developments in the region,' said the ministry.
Michel is understood to have briefed Manmohan Singh about new developments, including the context in which Seychelles last year offered China its harbour for use to refuel and stocking of Chinese warships stationed in the Gulf of Aden for anti-piracy operations.
This set the alarm bells ringing in New Delhi, but Beijing later clarified that it will not be a military base, but just a refuelling and supply facility.
Defence cooperation between India and Seychelles, the strategically-located island state, has been growing.
Last year, the Indian Navy deployed a Dornier maritime surveillance aircraft in the Seychelles for conducting anti-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean Region. The aircraft, stationed at Seychelles' capital Victoria, would be operated by a Indian Navy crew on anti-piracy patrol duties in the Indian Ocean Region -.
Seychelles was one of the nations that joined the ambitious Pan African e-Network Project in its first phase, inaugurated in February 2009. The project seeks to bridge the digital divide in the 54-nation continent and bring tele-medicine and tele-education to Africans.