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Modi to the land where India staged `Operation Wild Flowers are Blooming`

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New Delhi, Mar.10 (ANI): Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarked on this three-nation five-day visit to Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka this evening. He arrives at the Seychelles International Airport in Mahe later tonight.

 

The last Prime Ministerial visit to Seychelles was by Mrs. Indira Gandhi in 1981, but interestingly, the last time Air India 001, the VIP aircraft carrying the Indian Prime Minister was in Mahe, was on a covert mission which has never been acknowledged openly.

 

As per one report, on September 6, 1986, then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, who was attending the Non-Aligned Summit (NAM) meet in Harare, Zimbabwe, lent his aircraft to President France-Albert Rene to fly back to Mahe to avert a coup.

 

Rene supposedly disguised himself as a sari-clad Indian woman and was whisked away to the Indian high commissioner’s residence. The architect of the attempted coup, Ogilvy Berlouis and other plotters, were forced to resign and sent out to London.


 Two months earlier, India had executed “Operation Flowers are Blooming in Seychelles, when on a request by President Rene, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi instructed then Indian Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Tahiliani, to dispatch the frigate INS Vindhyagiri to avert a coup. A team of 20 sailors, trained in weapons, were said to have been ready to be dispatched to Port Victoria. This intervention by India on the Seychelles President’s request averted a coup.

 
The young country won independence from the UK in 1976 and adopted a presidential form of government. It has a unicameral National Assembly with 25 elected and nine nominated members.


The head of state and government is Mr. James Alix Michel who Prime Minister Modi will meet on Wednesday (March 11) at the Salon de Government.

 

Seychelles is called ‘The Paradise on Earth’, and probably the last time an India Prime Minister was here, was in 1988, when Rajiv Gandhi vacationed with his family and friends.

 

Seychelles consists of 115 islands, but it is in the capital Mahe, that 75 percent of the population lives. Vasco da Gama sighted the inhabited island grouping called the Seven Sisters in 1502 when he was crossing from India to East Africa.

Seychelles was a French territory till the beginning of the 19th century, before falling to the British in 1811. In the early 19th century, Chinese and Indian tradesmen and former slaves settled on these islands.

 

Relations between India and Seychelles have been characterized by close cooperation and understanding. An Indian naval ship, the INS Tarasa, was gifted to Seychelles in 2014 to augment surveillance and patrolling capacity of Seychelles waters. Several Indian ships have since made port calls in Victoria.

 

In 2009, on the request of Seychelles, India dispatched naval ships to patrol its exclusive economic zone and guard it against piracy. India has also helped Seychelles’ armed forces in capacity building.

 

During the Indian presidential visit to Seychelles in 2012, India announced USDS 50 million as Line of Credit and USD 25 million as grant to the Government of Seychelles. Indian assistance has also flowed since the 1980’s under ITEC programme in civilian defense and other fields.

 

The Indian Prime Minister will be offering prayers at the Sree Navasakthi Vinayagar Kovil (temple) on March 11, even before his ceremonial reception. Some of the earliest inhabitants of the Seychelles Islands have been Indians from Tamil Nadu and Gujarat, who came as traders, laborers and construction workers, and lately as professionals.

 

Indians constitute about one tenth of the country’s 91,000-strong population. On January 9, 2015, the Pravasi Bharatitya Samman Award was conferred on a Seychelles citizen of Indian origin, Justice D. Karunakaran. He is the second Seychellian recipient of the award. The community is looking forward to greater people to people contact with India which would receive an impetus with the visit of Prime Minister Modi to the island nation. (ANI)

For more information on any ANI Service: email: ani@aniin.com or call us at our New Delhi News desk: 91-11-26189705, 91-11-26703000

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