India and Maldives are engaging each other in an effort to resolve outstanding issues over the denial of visas to Indians, with officials meeting in Delhi, as well as External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj reaching out to her counterpart in Male to help hundreds of Indian job-holders left stranded over the last few months.
In addition, a growing controversy over whether India voted against the Maldives at the UN Security Council could be put to rest after a letter emerged clearly stating India’s support to the Maldivian candidature issued a day before the vote.
Sources said MEA officials have met Maldivian diplomats at least twice since Thursday to discuss ties between the two countries — under strain since February when Maldives President Yameen declared a state of emergency, which India had objected to.
Ms Swaraj also wrote a letter to her counterpart Foreign Minister Mohamed Asim specifically indicating India’s concern about the visa issue. Both the meetings and the letter transpired on Thursday, the day a story appeared in The Hindu outlining the plight of what some officials estimate are 2000 applicants for work visas who have been waiting since February. In Male, Indian Ambassador Akhilesh Mishra met with Maldivian President Yameen at an Id event on Friday.
When asked about the outcome of the discussions, Maldives Ambassador to India Ahmed Mohamed confirmed that the “issues related to visas have been notified” to him and he would be “consulting his government in Male while trying to find a suitable resolution”.
Mr Mohamed also referred to a formal statement from the Immigration Authority in Male that had denied that the visa delays were “discriminatory”.
However, neither the Ambassador nor the Immigration spokesman Hassan Khaleel would comment on specific cases where both hotel chains and IT colleges have written to job holders to say that Indians are not being issued work visas at present. Diplomatic sources suggested that the public denial from the Immigration authorities could be a positive sign, and matters may move forward “soon.”
The Hindu has learnt that on the issue of India’s vote for the UNSC non-permanent seat on June 8th, the Permanent Mission of India had written a letter to the Maldivian Embassy at the UN expressly committing support to the Maldives, and not Indonesia, who were contesting against each other for the Asian seat. According to the letter, which The Hindu has seen, the Indian Ambassador to the UN had written that “in view of the excellent bilateral relations” between India and the Maldives, the PMI “confirmed” that India would support the Maldives candidature at the vote the next day. Maldives lost the vote, garnering only 46 of the 190 votes cast in the UN General Assembly. When asked, Ambassador Mohamed said that India’s support had been deeply appreciated in Male, and added that the Maldives had also committed to supporting India when it stands for the same seat in 2021-22.
The MEA declined to comment on developments and discussions with the Maldives. Sources said on the UNSC issue that “voting is by secret ballot so information cannot be shared,” while on the visa issue sources said the government had taken it up at various levels and treated it with the “utmost importance.”
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