TOKYO - India is not standing idly by as China attempts to build up influence in the Indian Ocean.
In mid-March, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited three island countries, Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka and pledged broad bilateral co-operation in security and economic affairs. It is a move widely seen as a response to Beijing's announcement last November of a $40 billion fund to develop infrastructure for what it calls a "Maritime Silk Road" running from Asia to Africa.
The power struggle between New Delhi and Beijing, it seems, is just getting started.
Modi became the first Indian prime minister to pay an official visit to Mauritius -- where ethnic Indians make up 70 per cent of the total population -- in 34 years. Modi offered a generous package of economic aid, including loans worth $500 million and assistance with infrastructure development.
During the visit, he also attended a ceremony marking the handover of a 1,300-ton Indian-built naval patrol vessel called the Barracuda. It is India's first export of a military ship. "We must also assume our responsibility to shape its (Indian Ocean) future. So, Indian Ocean is at the top of our policy priorities." Modi stressed the importance of their common maritime home at the ceremony.
Mauritian Prime Minister Anerood Jagnauth expressed hopes that India will also sell attack and transport aircraft as well.
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