India High Commissioner Abhay Thakur:
* ‘India has expressed its solidarity with Mauritius on all issues of importance, including on Chagos’
Shri Abhay Thakur has taken over as Indian High Commissioner In Mauritius since a few months now, shortly after the old DTA agreement between India and Mauritius was renegotiated. Under these changed circumstances, we sought his views on the cooperation between our two countries, and on the impact of the new US-India relationship in defence matters in the Indian Ocean that concerns Mauritius as well. He also gives his views Mauritius as a platform for India towards Africa, as well as on the international standing of India under Prime Minister Modi.
* You’ve taken up your appointment as India’s High Commissioner to Mauritius fairly recently. Can we ask you whether the two countries are coming closer together or not as much as you would have wished it to happen in recent years?
India and Mauritius have entered into a new era of enhanced cooperation. Our relations are special and are so recognized by both sides. A whole range of new bilateral projects is under implementation.
I am very happy with the growing cooperation between India and Mauritius, and I look forward to a further strengthening of our time-tested and long-standing ties in the years ahead.
* Are there new areas to which the governments of our two countries and their private sectors are being exposed as compared to our traditional areas of collaboration? There will indeed be a huge gap now that the DTAA has been amended to what many feel has been to the detriment of our global business industry…
Government of India has accorded Most Favoured Nation status on tax matters to Mauritius. The India-Mauritius DTAC was amended in May 2016. Thereafter, talks on the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement (CECPA), which envisages comprehensive economic cooperation covering diverse sectors that leverage our respective strengths and are of mutual benefit to India and Mauritius, have resumed.
* There are misgivings in the financial sector here that Mauritius would not have received the best possible deal under the revised DTA treaty. If revision was unavoidable given India’s political and administrative concerns over the potential abuse of the provisions of the Treaty by astute tax-evading Indian businessmen, how does the revised Mauritius-India treaty compare with those renegotiated by India with other jurisdictions?
I reiterate that Mauritius has been accorded MFN treatment on tax matters. India’s recently renegotiated tax treaties with other countries corroborate this as well. This issue is now behind us and we can focus on bilateral projects and developmental priorities for Mauritius.
* As far as bilateral relations between our two countries are concerned, would you say that normalcy has been restored in those relations following the revision of the DTA treaty?
Now that the DTAC revision is behind us and the CEPCA negotiations have resumed, we are working together for diversifying the range and scope of our economic cooperation.
* The DTAA has represented a huge plank of economic activity between our two countries over more than a quarter century. It has had huge political-economy consequences and favoured the advancement of a professional class in the financial sector. Is there anything which you believe could have a similar impact in the future?
Let us not unnecessarily dwell upon unsubstantiated notions about adverse consequences of the DTAC review. On the contrary, with continuing MFN on tax matters with India, Mauritius will continue to enjoy an edge.
* For long, Mauritius has wished to become a launching pad for Indian investments overseas especially in Africa. Not much, it would seem, has materialized so far either by way of Indian investments in and through Mauritius or flow of expertise using Mauritius as a platform. What, in your view, would explain the want of adequate concrete action in this perspective?
After the DTAC review, a stable and predictable tax treaty regime is now in place. Contrary to earlier misapprehensions, this is turning out to be better for our diverse businesses which are now working more closely and actively with each other.
* During his high-level visit in March 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made clear his intent to invite Mauritius and India to embark on a new strategic partnership which revolved around national and regional security cooperation. We have had thereafter the visit of Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar. Could you give us an indication of what would in the eyes of the Indian Prime Minister be the actual content of such a new partnership especially given the elevated role that the Indian Navy intends to play in this part of the world?
India and Mauritius have shared security concerns in the Indian Ocean Region. In this regard, both countries have close cooperation in the area of maritime security. India is happy to provide all support, including supply of defence equipment, training and capacity building to the Mauritius Police Force.
* Are you saying that there is an ambition shared by both countries to go beyond the “umbilical connect”, the “common cultural identity” that bring Mauritius and India together, as you mentioned in your speech at the recent ‘Pehchaan’ cultural evening, and which places national and regional security cooperation on top of the agenda – without in any way compromising our sovereign interests or our strategic ties with other foreign capitals?
India and Mauritius have a super special relationship which manifests itself in multiple ways. Both countries accord exceptional treatment to each other.
* In the light of the growing collaboration between the US and India in different fields, including defence – India’s navy is getting, thanks to the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement with the US, access to American port facilities in the Indian Ocean region, including Diego Garcia — we would presume that India would not object to US presence on Diego Garcia today?
India has expressed its solidarity with Mauritius on all issues of importance, including on Chagos, at the UN and other multilateral fora.
* It was reported in the Indian press recently that India would have recently turned down a request from the UK’s Foreign Secretary “to leverage its influence with Mauritius on the contentious issue of Diego Garcia”. Diplomacy has not worked despite the best efforts of Mauritius during the last 40 years. Given India’s strategic interest in the Indian Ocean, would you tell us how India would like to see the matter resolved?
The matter is under discussion between the parties concerned. I can only reiterate that we have supported Mauritius at international fora.
* When Mr Modi came to power two years ago, there was a flurry of hope in the Indian diaspora in different parts of the world that, finally, India’s moment has come and that it would become a force to reckon with internationally under a strong leadership. Would you say that this hope is being sustained?
Today, India is one of the fastest growing economies of the world. As a large country of subcontinental proportions and a billion plus population, India faces multiple issues and challenges which are being successfully handled within our democratic framework, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
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