In a conversation with Kanchi BATRA, Managing Editor, The Diplomatist, the High Commissioner of Seychelles, H.E. Ms. Lalatiana Accouche speaks on the existing relations between Seychelles and India and discusses the areas where the two countries can mutually work in partnership.
WHAT ARE THE PRIORITIES OF YOUR TENURE AS HIGH COMMISSIONER OF SEYCHELLES IN INDIA?
First of all, it is a great privilege for me to be the first Seychellois woman to be given the honour to hold this position since the establishment of Diplomatic relations between Seychelles and India in 1976.
Assuming office in this significant year when India is holding the G20 Presidency and celebrating its 75th anniversary of Independence is simply an exciting and memorable moment. And not to forget India, the most populous democracy in the world, very rich in culture and heritage.
Thus being here in India for the first time is proving to be such an incredible experience and history for me, and especially after receiving direct compliments from the President of the Republic of India, Honourable Smt Droupadi Murmu, during my tête-à-tête with her as part of the accreditation process. Then on her Twitter account, President Murmu marked it as “a special occasion”.
All these in mind and knowing that the primary objective of being a High Commissioner or Ambassador is to chaperone the relationship between the two countries so that it becomes even deeper, I am eager to explore how to continue expanding the already excellent and fruitful relations between Seychelles and India.
It is a deep relationship between a big country and a small island sharing the Indian Ocean and historical links. Thus no efforts should be spared to take the relations to a higher level and to strengthen people-to-people connectivity.
So, as the High Commissioner of Seychelles to India, the priority would be reinforcing the bilateral relationship between the two countries, chiefly in the sectors of economic cooperation, trade, youth, cultural exchange, and environment as well as in areas such as healthcare, SME, education and capacity building which are significant for our growth and development.
With India’s immense diversity in its people, landscapes, food and experiences, there is no doubt my years of tenure will also be kept very busy exploring and enlarging my network not only at a professional level but also at a personal level and without ignoring my great interests and aim in learning more words in the local language.
I think for my first three months in post, I have been on the right track.
WHAT ARE THE KEY INDUSTRIES FOR SEYCHELLES ECONOMY?
Seychelles has the highest GDP per capita in Africa, about $13,306 (2021).
The economy remains dependent on tourism, making it highly vulnerable to global macroeconomic developments, as already proven during the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing international events.
Seychelles’ fishing industry, the largest sector after tourism, is well organized and plays an equally important role in keeping the economy afloat.
However, while Tourism and fisheries remain the key growth drivers, opportunities in knowledge-intensive services, including digital finance and ICT will also contribute to economic growth.
Movements toward ocean conservation and sustainable development of sectors can also have quick and positive results for the economy.
Seychelles now plays a key role in promoting the Blue Economy concept and interests in this sector are now growing.
Blue Economy, an economic initiative focusing on best practices to ensure sustainable utilisation of ocean and marine resources, has an impact on almost every sector such as fisheries, agriculture, renewable and tidal energy, pharmaceutical, petroleum and gas.
In addition, Seychelles has become an ideal place for research, not only in the sense of exploring the ocean and its riches but as an experimental market.
While actively promoting the ocean economy, the government perceives the port to be a potential container transhipment hub in the region.
Adding to the tourism and building/real estate markets, Seychelles has renewed its commitment to developing its financial services sector. The country aspires to be a financial hub.
In summary, to reduce vulnerability and uncertainty of growth, Seychelles continues to explore all possible ways to diversify economically aiming to reduce its overdependence on tourism.
In that sense, Seychelles has positioned itself as a pioneer, demonstrating that sustainable development is not just a dream but it can be a reality.
Therefore, Seychelles, presenting lots of interesting possibilities of investment to be explored, calls on potential investors to take the opportunity and come to Seychelles, to consider Seychelles, which for its location is seen as the perfect trade bridge point between Asia and Africa.
WHICH ARE THE AREAS WHERE SEYCHELLES AND INDIA CAN MUTUALLY WORK IN PARTNERSHIP?
In fact, Seychelles and India, sharing the same ocean with a natural connection in history and culture, enjoy relations that can be described as Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
Over the years, the two countries have developed a wide range of engagement in many fields such as education, health, defence, capacity building, culture, youth, trade, commerce and security, among others.
This is the clear mirror of the special relationship and partnership bonded in mutual trust and understanding and where the people-to-people relations and contacts play a vital role. Better connectivity will no doubt reinforce such a partnership.
The presence of a vibrant Indian community in Seychelles and Seychellois of Indian descent coupled with a shared vision for the development of the two countries and the region bolster the convergent interests of the two towards a developing partnership that is solid, lasting and sustainable.
The various high-level visits and exchanges in different areas culminating in the signing of a number of agreements have made the relations stronger. The contribution of India to Seychelles’ socio-economic development has been well appreciated and in particular, all assistance provided during the peak of covid-19 pandemic and the provision of vaccines permitting Seychelles to quickly reopen its borders to tourism: our bread and butter for now.
On the other side, the increasing number of Seychellois coming to India for special medical treatments has added impetus to the strengthening of the relations knowing that people-to-people contacts are the main ingredients to make a strong and spicy friendship.
We should not forget the significant role of the private sector as an important motor in further expanding this partnership.
The interests shown by the Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industries to establish more ties with the Seychelles Chamber of Commerce are impressive.
The two countries can thus continue collaborating mutually across several areas including in tourism bearing in mind the increasing interest of the growing Indian middle class in foreign travel and following the first-ever Global Tourism Investors Summit held in India with successful outcomes.
Meanwhile, it is important to note our very limited resources as the Seychelles Mission is small -if not the smallest in Delhi- with only one diplomat in the post, who is responsible not only for dealing with the vast cooperation with India but also for attending 13 more countries falling under its jurisdiction. But that may be part of the beauty of being small: the size does not matter if the desire is strong.
HOW WOULD YOU LIKE RELATIONS BETWEEN BOTH NATIONS TO EVOLVE OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?
Already known and as highlighted before, Seychelles and India have built long-standing deep, warm and friendly links and collaboration.
Over the years, strong ties in various areas have been developed.
Over the next five years, we hope for the relations between Seychelles and India to be more flourishing at a higher level involving increased trade and investment, joint initiatives on climate change and sustainable development, and cultural exchanges to foster greater understanding and friendship.
Seychelles would no doubt value continued support from India in key areas such as digital technology, energy, capacity building, health, etc. More collaboration with the involvement of the population and direct impacts on their life and enlarging people-to-people connections should be looked at another angle too.
In 2026, Seychelles and India will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Diplomatic Relations. I am convinced that it will be a milestone in the history of this strong and beautiful friendship.
WHAT STEPS HAVE BEEN TAKEN TO PROMOTE SEYCHELLES TO THE INDIAN PUBLIC TO FAMILIARIZE THEM WITH THE RICHNESS OF ITS CULTURE?
Seychelles has been actively promoting the island nation as a tourist destination in India through various marketing initiatives spotlighting the unique aspects of Seychellois culture and natural beauty.
The marketing campaigns involve collaborating with travel agencies, launching advertising campaigns in Indian media, and organising cultural events in India. Moreover, enhancing connectivity through direct flights boosts tourism.
In this context, in recent years, Seychelles Tourism Department has participated in a number of trade and road shows in India to promote the destination and build connections with Indian travel agents and tour operators.
The team has also launched a number of digital marketing campaigns including social media campaigns and influencer partnerships targeting the Indian market. Media relations are another key tool effectively used to generate visibility and promote Seychelles to a wider audience.
To familiarize Indian travellers with the richness of Seychellois culture, the tourism Department has organized familiarization trips to the islands with a focus on cultural events and activities. These include Creole festivals, food festivals and cultural tours.
No doubt that the recent resuming of direct flights between Seychelles and India will be another impetus in this direction.
As its contribution to the efforts towards the promotion of Seychelles in India, the High Commission, in collaboration with the Seychelles relevant entities and a travel agency in New Delhi, has been working to organise a trip to Seychelles this year for a group of diplomats. We hope that many of our colleagues and diplomats will take advantage of this unique opportunity.
HOW DOES THE WORLD SEE SEYCHELLES?
Globally, Seychelles is generally viewed as a high-end tourist destination celebrated for its unique biodiversity and stunning landscapes. The country’s commitment to environmental protection and sustainable development is also recognised internationally.
However, like many small island nations, it is perceived as vulnerable to challenges such as climate change, economic volatility and geopolitical issues.
Also by many, Seychelles is unique and is renowned for its timeless beauty, tranquillity and diversity, which roll from emerald green rainforests down to crystal clear turquoise waters, home to some of the rarest species of flora and fauna on earth.
It is known as the perfect setting for a tropical island dream holiday for being the world’s only granite islands in mid-ocean, the world’s oldest ocean islands, the world’s largest raised coral atoll and a whole host of attractions make up what is surely the world’s ultimate tropical paradise.
In one word, it is seen as nothing less than a paradise on earth, an island gifted with calmness and tranquillity.
But apart from these, Seychelles’ achievements in many areas and its contribution to world issues are also known and recognised at the international level.
As indicated earlier, with the highest nominal GDP per capita in Africa, it is the most prosperous nation in Sub-Saharan Africa.
It has the second-highest Human Development Index of any African country.
The only African country classified as a high-income economy by the World Bank.
Seychelles’ political environment stability remains an excellent example to the entire world.
Ranked first in Africa on the Environmental Performance Index 2020 scoring high marks in the protection of biodiversity. Seychelles is a champion of environmental conservation, and a global leader in environmental issues.
And last not least, Seychelles houses two UNESCO World Heritages – Vallee de Mai and Aldabra Island.
Who does not dream to discover Seychelles, a unique paradise on earth? This also reflects the people’s perception of Seychelles.