Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Malé on November 17 to attend Maldives President-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s oath-taking ceremony, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Friday. “In keeping with neighbourhood first policy, India looks forward to closely working with Maldives and deepening our partnership,” said ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar.
The relations between the two countries took a hit after former President Abdulla Yameen imposed a state of emergency in February for 45 days, throwing the island nation into a political crisis. The emergency was imposed after the Supreme Court reversed criminal convictions against nine of Yameen’s opponents.
Indian expatriates in the Indian Ocean archipelago reportedly started facing hostilities in February after the local media reported that New Delhi was refusing to issue dependent visas to Maldivians living in Kerala. In an apparent retaliation, the Maldives government seems to have stalled work visas for Indians. In April, Malé called upon India to take back two helicopters it had gifted the nation in 2013.
During his tenure, Yameen diluted the country’s traditional India-first foreign policy to seek investment and assistance from New Delhi’s geopolitical rivals China and Pakistan, as well as Saudi Arabia.
However, with Solih in charge, things are expected to change. In September, he described India as the island nation’s “closest ally” and said the cordial relationship would continue.
Waiver from sanctions on Iranian oil
Asked about the United States’ decision to waive the restrictions on India on importing Iranian oil, Kumar said India appreciates “that USA has shown understanding towards our position” and that New Delhi was still looking at the details.
The United States reimposed sanctions on Iran last week but allowed India and seven countries to temporarily import oil from Tehran. Earlier this week, US President Donald Trump had said the waivers were provided as he wanted to avoid causing a “shock to the market”.
Iran is India’s third-largest oil supplier after Iraq and Saudi Arabia. It supplied 18.4 million tonnes of crude oil between April 2017 and January 2018. The US had earlier said that it expects all countries, including India, to reduce their Iranian oil imports to zero by November 5.
Afghanistan peace summit
Kumar rejected statements that claimed India was going to hold talks with the Taliban at a multilateral peace summit on Afghanistan that began in Moscow on Friday. On Thursday, the spokesperson had said India would participate in a “non-official” capacity.
“If any process is consistent with our policy on Afghanistan then we will be part of it,” Kumar added. “We have made it clear already that our participation is at a non-official level. Do not know how people are concluding there will be talks with the Taliban, it’s a meeting on Afghanistan in Moscow.”
The talks, known as “Moscow format”, will be attended by a high-level delegation of the Taliban and a group representing the Afghan High Peace Council, which is a government-appointed body overseeing efforts to initiate talks with the militants.