• Tuesday, May 21, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

India under scanner again as Mauritius political controversy returns

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with his Mauritan counterpart Pravind Jugnauth in New Delhi in May 2017. (Photo by PRAKASH SINGH/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Shubham Ghosh

India has once again found itself entangled in an ongoing political controversy in the African island-nation of Mauritius after a political activist in that country, who recently got released on bail, alleged that he was approached by an Indian diplomat with a “proposition” a day before his arrest, The Wire reported.

The activist told this to a local court.

Mauritius was rocked last July over allegations by the former chief of its leading telecom provider Mauritius Telecom — Sherry Singh — that he was pressured to provide access to a team from India to allegedly set up a ‘device’ that could track internet traffic at a submarine cable-landing station. The accusation saw wide protests by the opposition and denials by the country’s government.

The controversy faded out before returning eight months later, seeing India, a regional partner of Mauritius, landing in another political row.

Last November, Bruneau Laurette, a renowned Mauritian environmental activist and vocal critic of the country’s Pravind Jugnauth government, was arrested on charges of possessing drugs after the police raided his house and claimed to have discovered hashish worth 40 kilograms.

Laurette said he had been “framed” by the police because of his political activism, The Wire report added. He was released on bail in February with several conditions after the office of the director of public prosecutions decided against contesting the local court’s instructions.

The activist submitted, as part of his bail hearings, an affidavit written in creole last month. The covering letter for the affidavit described the content as “chronology of events resulting to my aforesaid arrest which amount to a political vendetta”, The Wire, which saw it, reported.

Earlier this month, L’Express, a local French newspaper, came up with a report which referred to Laurette’s claim made in the affidavit of meeting an official of the Indian high commission, just a day before his arrest last year.

In the Mauritian newspaper report, the diplomat was identified based on a probe, The Wire reported. It also said that the Indian ministry of external affairs did not comment after it contacted it over the Mauritian media report.

The original 10-page affidavit, which was seen by The Wire, did not name the official, however. The diplomat was described by the activist as an “advisor” with the Indian high commission.

“My arrest was strange as it happened the day following which I had a conversation and a meeting with an advisor from the Indian High Commission in Mauritius, during which I refused a proposal to work with the MSM government,” Laurette wrote in his affidavit, as per a rough translation, The Wire reported.

According to Laurette, the meeting was disclosed to the cops when they quizzed him about his whereabouts after the arrest.

He claimed that the Indian official asked why he did not work with prime minister Jugnauth, noting that “government works with government”.

“I replied, ‘I am not a kamikaze”, it’s a political suicide’,” Laurette was quoted as saying.

India has been increasing its assistance to Mauritius to counter China’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean, especially in the infrastructure projects.

In 2015, New Delhi inked an agreement to upgrade the military infrastructure at Mauritius’s Agalega island, which angered the opposition who raised questions about sovereignty.

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