Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s forthcoming visit to Mauritius and other countries in the Indian Ocean Region holds not only strategic significance but symbolic importance as well. The last prime ministerial visit to Mauritius was in 2005 when Dr. Manmohan Singh visited the island. In 2013, President Pranab Mukherjee was invited as Chief Guest during the celebrations commemorating Mauritius’s 45th Anniversary of Independence. It would be pertinent to note here that the incumbent Prime Minister’s first visit to any member country of the African Union includes Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. The visit will also allow Prime Minister Modi to establish a working and personal relationship with the newly elected government in Mauritius.
Leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries were invited on 26 May 2014 for Modi’s oath-taking ceremony upon his election to office. In addition to SAARC leaders, the Prime Minister of Mauritius was also invited. This was in recognition of the special relationship between India and Mauritius. The mass media, whose entire focus was on our immediate neighbours, largely ignored his presence. Similarly, when the pre-term yet important general elections were held in Mauritius in December 2014, most of the Indian mass media passed over the development with only brief print and electronic news reports.
Relations between India and Mauritius are longstanding, based on a shared civilisational heritage and common kinship and culture. These relations are categorised as “unique and special.” They have also been called “sacred and umbilical.” Indian prime ministers have seen India as a privileged partner in the overall economic development of Mauritius. During his visit to Mauritius in March 2013, President Pranab Mukherjee termed the relations between the two countries as “a strategic partnership.” This is premised on the multi-faceted nature of our interaction and cooperation. Mauritian prime ministers have stressed the overwhelming importance of India to their nation.
Indo-Mauritian relations are mutually beneficial. Our interests intersect. Our cooperation is comprehensive in nature and extensive in scope. It includes political understanding of each other’s interests; a strong trade, economic and financial interaction; strategic cooperation in the field of defence and security; energy-related cooperation; cooperation in the area of blue economy; exchanges in the fields of education, science and technology and culture, among others. The two countries work closely in various international and regional fora, including the United Nations and the Indian Ocean Rim Association.
Upon the invitation of the Mauritian government, Prime Minister Modi is expected to visit Mauritius on 12 March 2015 as Chief Guest during the 47th Anniversary celebrations of the country’s Independence Day. The date is significant: The Father of the Mauritian nation and its first Prime Minister, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, had decided on this date as it commemorated the commencement of the Dandi Salt March by Mahatma Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi had stopped by Mauritius in November 1901 on his way back from South Africa. He is highly revered in Mauritius.
The strength of bilateral political relations between India and Mauritius has also been reflected in the fact that all prime ministers of Mauritius have included India as the destination for their first overseas visit after their being sworn into office. The only exception was Prime Minister
Navinchandra Ramgoolam, who was unable to include India on his first overseas tour after being re-elected to office in 2010. Prime Minister Modi has conveyed an invitation to the recently elected Prime Minister Sir Anerood Jugnauth to visit India.
From the Indian side, nearly all prime ministers have visited Mauritius. Bilateral visits at the level of presidents and vice presidents have been frequent and regular. The last senior visit from India to Mauritius was that of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in November 2014 as Chief Guest at the 180th Anniversary of Aapravasi Divas, commemorating the landing on Mauritian shores of the first Indians on 2 November 1834. From the Mauritian side, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Lands and Housing Showkutally Soodhun participated in the 13th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas at Gandhinagar in January 2015.
On the eve of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit, M. Ganapathi, former High Commissioner of India to Mauritius, analyses the broad relationship between the two countries and suggests areas of cooperation to further strengthen ties.
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