Diaspora in Mauritius: A Recipe for Contested Development
Strategically situated in the Indian Ocean—yet with neither defence forces nor any natural resources to trade—Mauritius relies on FDI, market access and military assistance for its survival. Due to its colonial links, Mauritius has benefited from a series of preferences from the UK (e.g. Commonwealth Sugar Agreement) and from its Francophone membership (e.g. France Telecom investment). Its colonial past, coupled with a consequent ethnically unbalanced demography composed of 68 % of Indian descent, 27 % of African descent, 3 % of Chinese descent and 2 % of Franco-Mauritian, Mauritius is liable to be cautious in its affiliation during exercises of international diplomacy. This is particularly relevant in the interplay between China and India on the Mauritian investment scenario. Aware of the Mahanian conflict between the two regional competitors regarding influence over the Indian Ocean, Mauritius aptly uses its active diaspora links with one as a negotiation leverage to incite investment cooperation from the other. It is in under a similar practice that Mauritius has secured the two biggest investment projects in its history: The Mauritius JinFei Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone by China (2006) and the NeoTown zone project by Indian developers (2010). What is remarkable is that Mauritius adopts a management method allowing it to secure its diaspora loyalty to both home countries; while India is granted investment monopoly in ICT and services, Chinese activism is welcomed in construction and manufacturing. The Mauritian negotiation strategy almost resembles Putnam’s two-level game (Putnam International Organization 42: 427–460, 1988) though in an inverted fashion, whereby the international is harmonized at the domestic level. However, the use of diaspora links as a bait to lure investment from China and India needs to be evaluated as it might become an excuse for Mauritius to overlook more viable investment partnership alternatives.
KeywordsPolitical Party Ethnic Community Chinese Immigrant Southern African Development Community Indian Immigrant
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