Hopes rise in India for an end to Maldives visa row

September 26, 2018 12:00 am | Updated 03:36 am IST - NEW DELHI

Male officials have indicated that resolving the issue will be a priority

The new government in the Maldives will make resolving all recent issues with India a priority, and the problems of Indian job-holders awaiting work-visas will be a “key issue”, says a senior leader of the Maldivian Democratic Party and member of former President Mohammad Nasheed’s cabinet.

While a decision is being made on invitations for the swearing-in ceremony of president-elect Ibrahim Solih on November 17, MDP officials also said they are likely to invite Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attend.

However, the Maldives High Commission in Delhi said it had been given no “official confirmation” of an invitation to Mr. Modi. When asked about the invitation, Mr. Naseem said “all Maldivians would hope that PM Modi would be at the inauguration”.

An MEA official said it was too early to comment on the possible visit “at this stage”.

“This [visa issue] is one of the key issues we will take up,” former Maldivian Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem told The Hindu. “ We won’t deprive people of jobs in the Maldives, especially Indians, and will make a huge effort to sort this out, given the importance of our relationship with India.”

Jobs on hold

The new government’s actions and any improvement in India-Maldives ties is being keenly watched by two groups of Indians stranded without visas for several months. The first group of more than 2,000 job-holders failed to receive work visas after a downturn in ties following India’s criticism of Mr. Yameen’s decision to declare an emergency in February.

The other group consists of close to 40 naval and coastguard personnel, stationed in the Addu and Laamu atolls, who operate two helicopters gifted by the Indian government in 2013. Earlier this year, the Yameen government had refused to renew their visas, and asked India to take back the helicopters. The impasse has continued since June, when the visas of the naval team expired.

Calling the election results a positive development, a senior Navy official said they hope the new government will continue to use the helicopters and renew the visas at the earliest.

(with inputs from Dinakar Peri)

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