The government of India has officially requested the Maldivian government to resolve the issue of authorities holding up work permits for Indian citizens.
The Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan had sent a letter to the Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj expressing his concern over Indian citizens being denied work permits, stating that over 30,000 Indians, a majority hailing from Kerala, were working in various fields in the Maldives including education, health and tourism.
Vijayan sought the top diplomat’s immediate intervention in the matter, stating it was a matter of national interest. He had also noted that Indian citizens were previously able to acquire a work permit within the duration of approximately 7 days, speculatin that Maldivian authorities might be denying work permits due to political reasons.
According to ‘The Hindu’, Swaraj wrote to her counterpart, the foreign minister, Dr Mohamed Asim specifically indicating India’s concern about the work permit issue. The news outlet further noted that the Indian External Affairs Ministry officials had met Maldivian diplomats at least twice since Thursday to discuss bilateral ties between the two countries.
Indian officials have estimated over 2,000 applicants in waiting for work permits since February this year.
However, Immigration Controller Mohamed Anwar refuted the claims, and said that Maldives Immigration officers do not discriminate when carrying out their duties.
The authority would continue to grant Indian citizens work permits and visas in accordance to the immigration regulations of the country, he had said.
Whilst India has been claiming that work permit denials from the Maldives are discriminatory, Maldives’ embassy in India has recently received reports of Maldivian citizens being denied entry to India and being asked leave the country. The embassy queried the matter, but the Indian government is yet to respond.
Progressive Party of Maldives’ (PPM) parliamentary group leader and Villimale MP Ahmed Nihan was recently denied entry to India, despite him carrying a diplomatic passport which bears a SAARC visa sticker that allows visa-free entry to all member countries.
The Maldives-India relations took a nose dive in the recent years due to incumbent President Abdulla Yameen’s close economic ties with China; a growing concern for India as Maldives is in its ‘backyard'. The relations between Maldives and India worsened after India criticised the president’s decision to enforce a state of emergency, and called on the government to enforce the top court’s ruling on February 1 to release all political prisoners.