Interview with H.E. Mrs. Harisoa Lalatiana Accouche, High Commissioner of Seychelles to India

“Seychelles offer an exceptional combination of pristine natural beauty, rich culture, and warm Seychellois hospitality.”

 In June, the Republic of Seychelles celebrates its 47th Independence Day. How does the High Commission of the Republic of Seychelles in India usually celebrate this day?

Each year on the 29th of June, Seychelles commemorates its Independence Day.  For the past years, celebrations have been limited, no grand events have been organised- nor at home o in our diplomatic missions abroad- due to the covid 19 pandemic and its economic downturns. Normally, missions host usual activities where a diverse audience is invited.  This includes diplomats of various countries, government officials, and prominent members of the business community bringing them together in celebration of Seychelles national pride and heritage. A distinctive feature of this celebration is the display of Seychellois culture. A variety of cultural performances to showcase traditional Seychellois music and dance, to give a glimpse into Seychelles’ rich Creole culture. Additionally, traditional Seychellois dishes are prepared and served, offering a culinary journey that further adds to the authenticity and uniqueness of the celebration.

India and the Republic of Seychelles have a long history of strong bilateral relationship. Can you comment on the diplomatic relationship between the two countries since 1976?

The diplomatic relations between India and Seychelles, formally established in 1976, have been an enduring one, marked by mutual respect, strong bilateral ties, and close collaboration. These relations have been fostered and nurtured over several decades through consistent engagement in areas of common interest, including education, health, maritime security, trade, capacity building, cultural exchanges, etc. Shared concerns over the regional security and economic development have provided a common ground for collaboration, making this partnership mutually beneficial. Over the years, the diplomatic relations have flourished and evolved, becoming a significant partnership anchored in shared strategic interests, mutual trust, a common understanding of global issues and a win-win collaboration.

Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi along with the President of the Republic of Seychelles H.E. Wavel Ramkalawan inaugurated a range of Indian projects in Seychelles in April 2021. Could you throw some light on some of the ongoing and planed Indian assisted projects in the Republic of Seychelles?

In April 2021, a landmark moment in the India-Seychelles relationship took place. Hon. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi of India and President Wavel Ramkalawan of Seychelles jointly e-inaugurated several key Indian-assisted projects in Seychelles. This included the unveiling of a new Magistrates’ Court Building, a project that saw India’s support for Seychelles’ quest for a robust and independent judiciary. The inauguration also marked the commissioning of a one MW solar power plant, showcasing India’s commitment to assisting Seychelles in its transition towards renewable energy. Another significant contribution was the initiation of 10 High Impact Community Development Projects (HICDPs). The projects are designed to bring substantial direct benefits to local communities in Seychelles. Moreover, a Fast Patrol Vessel for the Seychelles Coast Guard was handed over, underlining India’s commitment to Seychelles’ maritime security. These projects embody India’s dedication to supporting Seychelles in its sustainable development journey. Seychelles is grateful to all assistance provided by India. On behalf of the government and people of Seychelles, I would like to reiterate our deep appreciation for that.

During the last visit of the External Affairs Minister of India H.E. Dr. S. Jaishankar to the Republic of Seychelles, he held Ministerial level talks with Seychelles’ Foreign Minister. What were the key outcomes from that visit?

The visit of India’s External Affairs Minister, Hon. Dr. S. Jaishankar, to Seychelles led to a fruitful discussion with Seychelles authorities. The meetings yielded significant outcomes, further strengthening the cooperative ties between the two nations. Key areas of discussions included cooperation in the Blue Economy, a concept that harmonizes economic growth with the sustainable use of ocean resources. It was also reiterated commitment to jointly enhance maritime security in the region. Health cooperation also featured in the discussion, with both sides acknowledging the need for collaboration in health and wellness, especially given the ongoing global health crisis. Furthermore, it was highlighted the need to expedite various infrastructure projects in Seychelles, underlining India’s commitment to Seychelles’ development agenda. This demonstrates how a big nation and a small island can collaborate.

Republic of Seychelles and India has a long-chequered history of defence co-operation. In line with the same Indian Navy ships visited the Republic of Seychelles to mark the successful completion of the OTR of the first training squadron of the Indian Navy. What other steps have been undertaken to strengthen defence co-operation between the two countries?

The Indian Navy’s visit to Seychelles signified a major milestone in the defense cooperation between the two nations. The arrival of the Indian Navy ships was not just a show of solidarity but a testament to India’s commitment to the maritime security.  Besides the goodwill visits, India has generously gifted Fast Patrol Vessels and Dornier aircraft to Seychelles, enhancing the operational capabilities of the Seychelles Coast Guard. India has also been instrumental in providing training for Seychellois defense personnel, strengthening their capacity and readiness.

Republic of Seychelles has been emerging as a popular investment destination in the fields of Blue Economy, Financial services, ICT among others. How does the government further aim to attract more investors to invest in the Republic of Seychelles?

Seychelles has been steadily emerging as a potential investment destination. The Seychellois government has been actively working towards attracting more investors by highlighting Seychelles’ strategic location, stable political and economic environment, attractive tax regime, and a well-regulated financial services sector. Investors are encouraged to explore opportunities in the Blue Economy, which promotes the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs. Other promising sectors include Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and renewable energy. These sectors are expected to be the key drivers of Seychelles’ future economic growth.

Creole Festival and Seychelles Ocean Festival- some of the well-known multi-cultural events along with a rich cuisine with a strong Indian influence constitute an important component of Seychelles’s culture. How do you expect to put the culture of Seychelles on a global stage more prominently? 

Seychelles’ rich culture, with its diverse influences and unique traditions, is best showcased through events such as the Creole Festival and Ocean Festival. Such events offer a vivid display of Seychellois culture, presenting traditional music, dance, and food to a global audience. The Seychellois government plans to work more closely with cultural institutions to highlight Seychellois culture. The aim is not just to share our unique cultural heritage with the world but to also establish Seychelles as a premier destination for cultural tourism. Seychelles and India signed an agreement on Culture and Education, a base for further enhancing cooperation in these fields.

Seychelles is renowned for being the ideal holiday destination. Furthermore, the tourism sector has been witnessing significant year-on-year growth in Indian arrivals. How does the government look to promote the tourism industry further?

The Seychellois government has been proactive in promoting the tourism industry, a vital pillar of the country’s economy. The focus is on sustainable and eco-friendly tourism that preserves the natural beauty of Seychelles while ensuring a unique and enjoyable experience for tourists. The government is also keen on exploring new markets and improving connectivity to facilitate the growth of the sector. Given the significant increase in arrivals from India before the covid-19 pandemic, strategies are being devised to create bespoke experiences that cater to the preferences of  tourists, further enhancing their stay in Seychelles. The tourism office which was opened in Mumbai has the mandate to carry out different activities to promote Seychelles and attract more Indian tourists to opt for Seychelles as destination.  The resumption of Mahe-Mumbai direct flight by Air Seychelles will surely contribute towards that goal.

India has an important link with Seychelles in the form of Indian nationals who have been among the earliest inhabitants of this island. How do you think has this community helped in fostering cordial bilateral ties and development of Seychelles?

The Indian diaspora in Seychelles has had a profound influence on the development of Seychelles. This community, being among the earliest inhabitants of the island, has contributed significantly to various facets of Seychellois society. Their influence can be seen in the economy, where they have played a pivotal role in the growth of the local business sector. Their contributions have also enriched Seychelles’ cultural tapestry, adding to the unique Creole culture of the islands. The Indian community’s positive contributions have not only benefited Seychelles domestically but have also served to foster warm and cordial bilateral ties between Seychelles and India.

Would you like to give any message to our Envoy Excellency readers?

I would like to use this opportunity to extend first of all a warm gratitude to the Government and people of India for the warm welcome reserved to me as the first Seychellois woman holding the post of High Commissioner of Seychelles in India since the opening of Seychelles Mission in New Delhi . Since day one, I felt at home with new family.  Thank you also goes to Envoy Excellency Magazine for thinking about Seychelles and having this interview, an opportunity of dialogue to talk more about Seychelles.

Now, I extend heartfelt invitations to all Indian citizens- ordinary o investors- to visit Seychelles, a paradise on earth.  Our islands offer an exceptional combination of pristine natural beauty, rich culture, and warm Seychellois hospitality. Seychelles is a place where you can relax on our white sandy beaches, explore our diverse flora and fauna, or immerse yourself in our vibrant Creole culture. As we continue to strengthen our relationship with India, I am optimistic about the future growth and development of India-Seychelles relations. I firmly believe that our mutual respect, shared interests, and common values will guide us towards a future of shared prosperity and continued friendship and a win-win collaboration.

I am thus convinced that during my tenure, the visibility of Seychelles in India will notably increase resulting in further cementing the already excellent friendship and collaboration between Seychelles and India.

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