Sushma writes to Maldives on visa row

Sushma writes to Maldives on visa row

Ministry officials meet Male diplomats to discuss bilateral ties as job applicants are left stranded

India and the Maldives are engaging in an effort to resolve issues over the denial of visas to Indians, with officials meeting in Delhi, and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj reaching out to her counterpart in Male to help hundreds of Indian job-holders left stranded over the past few months.

Support at UN

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 External Affairs Ministry officials had met Maldivian diplomats at least twice since Thursday to discuss bilateral ties — under strain since February, when Maldives President Abdulla Yameen declared a state of Emergency, which India had objected to.

Ms. Swaraj wrote to her counterpart, 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 2,000 applicants for work visas who have been waiting since February.

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 resolution”.

‘No discrimination’

Mr. Mohamed also referred to a formal statement from the Immigration Authority in Male that had denied that the visa delays were “discriminatory”. 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 8, the Permanent Mission of India had written a letter to the Maldivian Embassy at the UN expressly committing support to Maldives, and not Indonesia, who were contesting against each other for the Asian seat.

The Ministry declined to comment on developments and discussions with the Maldives.

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