The decision by the just re-elected Prime Minister of Mauritius Pravind Jugnauth to visit India, last week underscores the significance both countries attach to each other’s bilateral and cultural ties. With more than two thirds of the 1.3 million Mauritian population being of Indian origin, living in the so called ‘Vanilla Island’ of the Indian Ocean; both countries have a natural tendency to lean towards each other for their security, economic and developmental concerns.
Though, the visit of Prime Minister Jugnauth was described as private one in the official diplomatic circles in New Delhi; Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosted him at Hyderabad House, the official designated meeting venue for high dignitaries. During the meeting, both leaders reassured each other about their desire to continue deepening of relations. Prime Minister Modi conveyed India’s support to Mauritius’ aspiration of becoming a highly secure, stable and prosperous nation.
The Indian Prime Minister said, the Government and people of Mauritius can count on India’s wholehearted support and continued solidarity in their aspirations to build a strong Mauritius. Prime Minister Jugnauth expressed his deep appreciation for India’s support in many developmental and cooperation projects like the Metro Express project (the first of its’ kind in the island nation), a specialized ENT hospital, Social Housing project etc. These projects have brought real benefits to the Mauritian people. Over the period of time, India has carefully nurtured her economic and political relations with the Indian Ocean Island of Mauritius, whose citizens have unanimity of views on promoting strong relations with India.
Prime Minister Jugnauth told the Indian Prime Minister that accelerating the pace of all round development of Mauritius and deepening the scope of cooperation with India will be the priorities of his new government. He expects India to play an important role in this endeavour. Immediately after his re-election, Prime Minister Modi had telephonically congratulated Mr. Jugnauth and invited him to visit India at the earliest. Responding to the invitation, Prime Minister Jugnauth visited India along with his wife, nearly a month after his party, the Militant Socialist Movement won the majority in Parliament.
Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth is the son of the illustrious ex-Prime Minister of Mauritius, Anirudh Jugnauth. Mr. Pravind Jugnauth carries the legacy of promoting the interests of his fellow citizens, who are mostly people of Indian origin, having migrated almost two centuries ago to assist the British Empire as indentured labour in the sugar cane fields. Today, these descendants of India are the proud citizens of a strategically situated and very important island State, with which all the big powers want to have strong relations. The Mauritian people have always given priority towards maintaining and strengthening strong links with India and hence have taken care to protect and promote India’s strategic interests.
Mauritius has been described by European explorers as the “Star” and ‘key’ of the Indian Ocean. Europeans had competed to get a foothold to secure the sea lines of communication between Europe and India. It is significant to note that Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his 2015 visit to Port Louis, for the first time spoke of his strategy on Indian Ocean, ‘SAGAR’, (Security and Growth for All).
Mauritius is the top source of inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI) and hence plays a significant role in development of India’s economy. As a member of the African Union (AU), Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), Mauritius has the potential to further India’s strategic and economic interests in the African continent and Indian Ocean rim states.
Considering the role both nations can play in advancing each other’s economic and security interests, the Mauritian and Indian Prime Ministers have agreed to work closely to build upon the multifaceted bilateral relations and to explore new avenues of engagement, based on mutual interests and priorities.
The visit of Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth to India would go a long way in further cementing the strategic relations between two nations whose population share civilizational bonds.
Script: Ranjit Kumar, Senior Journalist