New Delhi, Aug 26: In its fight against black money, India on Wednesday signed an information exchange agreement with Seychelles on tax matters, along with pacts to deepen ties in security and defence among other areas.
While the foreign direct investments from Seychelles have been small at just about Rs 1,100 crore over the last 15 years, the Indian Ocean island nation has long been perceived as one of the preferred offshore havens for routing of funds.
The agreement on tax information exchange, signed after talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the visiting Seychelles President James Alix Michel, would help curb tax evasion and provides for mutual assistance between the authorities of the two countries on enforcement action against suspected tax evaders along with other related matters.
Last week, the Union Cabinet had approved signing and ratification of this pact as part of the government's efforts to unearth black money.
Similar pacts have already been signed with a number of other offshore tax centres such as Bahamas, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Jersey, Liechtenstein, Monaco and San Marino. India and Seychelles also signed four other agreements including one on air connectivity and the other for supply of a Dornier aircraft to the island nation.
India also handed over the navigational charts relating to Aldabra island of Seychelles. Aldabra is the world's second largest coral atop.
It is home to the world's largest population of giant tortoises and is extremely isolated, making it virtually untouched by human.
"President Michel has also been instrumental for the progress in our relationship. We value this greatly because Seychelles is a key strategic partner for India," Modi said in his media statement.
He also said that the two countries are making good progress on the decisions taken during his "very productive" visit in March to Seychelles.
Stressing that India and Seychelles have excellent security cooperation, especially for maritime security in the Indian Ocean Region, Modi said, "We are honoured to be a partner in providing aircraft, naval vessels and coastal radar systems for strengthening surveillance capacities".
He said cooperation in hydrography surveys is also extensive and growing. Modi also told the visiting President that India will gift one more Interceptor Coastguard boat to Seychelles.
Modi said he and the Seychelles President place strong emphasis on 'Ocean or Blue Economy' and stressed on a need to look at "small island countries as large ocean states with vast potential".
"We are pleased that sustainable use of oceans and marine resources is a distinct element in the Sustainable Development Goals in the United Nations that were finalised recently," he said.
India and Seychelles also signed a protocol on framework of cooperation in the field of blue economy.
"Our bilateral agreement for cooperation on blue economy is a huge step forward in our relationship and in promoting sustainable ocean economy in the region," Modi said.
The two countries will also cooperate in the areas of managing land and marine resources, fisheries advisory, weather forecasting and disaster management, among others.
"We have begun preparations for infrastructure development on the Assumption Island in Seychelles. We had spoken in March about improving connectivity. The Air Services Agreement today will enable more and easier connections between the two countries," he said.
Modi said climate change is a major global challenge and a serious threat to island countries like Seychelles.
"With a shoreline of 7500 kilometres and nearly 1300 islands, India has similar concerns. We both have ambitious national plans for a more sustainable future. We also work together for a comprehensive, balanced and effective outcome on climate change at COP 21 in Paris later this year," he said.
Modi also said he appreciates Seychelles' support for India's candidature for permanent membership of an expanded UN Security Council.
"I also conveyed our desire to work with Small Island Developing States to realise their vision of Samoa Pathway and to be a source of strength for each other in international forums," he said.
Modi also thanked the visiting President for his support for the Third India-Africa Forum Summit, to be held in October, as also for making the International Day of Yoga a big success earlier this year.
"We are two nations of vastly different sizes. But, this relationship is an outstanding model of international partnership. This special and unique relationship will always be at the centre of our interests.
"I am confident that this milestone year for our relationship will be the springboard for taking our strategic partnership to a new level," he said.