Mauritius eyes key trade pact with India during Jaishankar’s visit | India News – Times of India

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Foreign minister S Jaishankar will travel to Mauritius on Saturday to advance a trade and investment agreement with the island nation and one of India’s key partners in the Indian Ocean region. The minister will, however, be landing in the middle of civil unrest, with opposition parties and civil society groups calling for the resignation of the prime minister Pravind Jugnauth and his government.
Last week, the foreign minister of Mauritius, Nandcoomar Bodha resigned and has positioned himself as a challenger to Jugnauth. In an exclusive conversation with TOI, Bodha dwelt on the causes of the unrest and the future of India-Mauritius ties.
Describing himself as the “last of the Mohicans”, Bodha said he resigned as minister and Secretary-General of the ruling party Militant Socialist Movement (MSM). “I have served under Sir Aneerood Jugnauth for ages, so in a sense, I am the last of the Mohicans. I have served in government for years, but I think the time has come when we need something else.”
“From last August there has been unrest, against corruption and fraud. Last weekend there was a massive rally where civic groups and NGOs came together with mainstream political parties. The rally was an outcry against the leadership of the prime minister. In Mauritius, it is believed that a small controlling coterie is running the show. There is an outcry for fundamental change.” Bodha said.
In his resignation statement, the former foreign minister said, “This new vision will encompass the dreams and aspirations of all Mauritians. When we listen to the people of Mauritius, it is clear that their ideals and aspirations are well beyond what we have offered to them so far as a political class.”
Bodha said, “I will be devoting myself to this new vision for a new and modern Mauritius.” He added that if six-seven more leaders quit, the Jugnauth government would be in a minority, and elections would be inevitable.
Asserting that the country cannot run as it is at present, Bodha said, “I am talking to everyone in the opposition — political parties and civil society groups. I am going to present a manifesto with a number of proposals for the coming years. I am confident this will be a national program. I am trying to crystallise this desire for change. I will be travelling throughout the country. I have a team of technical people, prominent young people, who have not been in politics before. I’m confident the program will get the support of the people of Mauritius.”
India and Mauritius will be signing a free trade agreement, Bodha said.
“Jaishankar’s visit will be important because we’re signing this free trade area agreement. It will open up trade and investment relations between India and Mauritius. Mauritius will be able to export certain goods to India. It would open up investment and trade. It will help India access Africa through Mauritius — we speak French and Hindi, the only country in the world to do so. We’re part of African Union and SADC.”
India, he said, is opening up to Africa. “We can be useful.” In terms of security, Bodha said India has an important role. “India can be important — in Indian Ocean maritime security, and in the Indo-Pacific. In terms of maritime security in the Indian Ocean, we have the Chagos archipelago where we have the Diego Garcia base. We have an issue of sovereignty and a dispute with the UK and US. I think India can be instrumental in bringing everyone together to find a solution for us.”



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