New Delhi: Signalling the honeymoon phase isn’t over, India and Maldives announced on Tuesday the new “very liberal” visa regime will be in place from March 11, just as the Maldivian president gave the green light to seek parliamentary approval for a bilateral mutual legal assistance treaty with India.
On Tuesday, the Maldives and India exchanged diplomatic notes for implementing the visa facilitation agreement, which was signed during President Ibu Solih’s visit in December 2018. The new agreement will be in place from March 11.
Solih’s trip in December was his first after his surprise victory over the incumbent candidate Yameen at the polls. The election of a new government in Malé provided a chance to mend ties for New Delhi. Under Yameen, relations with India had been strained, as Maldives laid out a red carpet for China for strategic infrastructure projects.
#Maldives and #India exchanged diplomatic notes today regarding Visa Facilitation Agreement signed during President @ibusolih’s State Visit to India. The Agreement, effective from 11th March will introduce a liberal visa regime for Maldivians travelling to and residing in India. pic.twitter.com/vKMf15inFA
— Abdulla Shahid 🎈 (@abdulla_shahid) February 12, 2019
A liberalised visa regime was top priority for the Maldivian government, as thousands of nationals from the island nation travel to India for education and health reasons. Over the last few years, there were several complaints that India had asked many Maldivian nationals to leave the country because they had overstayed their visa.
According to India’s ministry of external affairs (MEA), the new agreement “provides a very liberal visa regime for Maldivian nationals to visit India for tourism, business, education and medical purposes.” “It also makes it easier for Indians to travel to Maldives for business purposes,” the MEA added. Officials claim this is India’s most liberal visa facilitation agreement with any country.
The new agreement allows Maldivian parents to obtain visas that will be valid during the duration of their children’s academic term. This facility will also be extended to the dependents of parents, enabling minor siblings to also remain with the family during their stay in India. Furthermore, attendants of Maldivian patients will also be able to get visas for the duration medical treatment sought in India now.
If a Maldivian national travels to India on the 90 day ordinary visa, he or she will now be able to convert their travel document into a medical visa without traveling back to the Maldives.
On the same day as diplomatic notes on the new visa regime were exchanged, the Maldivian president also decided to apply for parliamentary approval for a mutual legal assistance treaty with India.
A press release on the cabinet meeting from Maldives President’s office states that the treaty will allow for the execution of arrest warrants and also improve the prosecution of transnational crimes, like terrorism.
“The treaty will facilitate the fight against criminal activity, especially crimes related to terrorism. It will also aid in the investigation of such matters, obtaining evidence, and broaden the opportunity to interrogate those in question,” it said.