New US ambassador to Maldives takes oath of office

New US ambassador to Maldives takes oath of office
August 13 17:30 2015

Newly appointed US ambassador Atul Keshap, has said his focus will be on partnering with the Maldivian government in strengthening rule of law and human rights and combating violence extremism and the effects of climate change.

The 44-year-old Indian-American was sworn in yesterday, becoming only the second US diplomat of Indian origin to be posted to the South Asia region.

“In Maldives, we want to partner with the people and government in expanding rule of law and human rights, and combining violent extremism and the effects of climate change,” Keshap reportedly said at the appointment.

The US Senate confirmed Keshap’s appointment last week. He has previously visited the Maldives and Sri Lanka on several occasions as the deputy assistant secretary of state for south and central Asian affairs.

US secretary of state for management and resources Heather Anne Higginbottom administered the oath of office to Keshap.

“Atul believes in transformational power of engaging directly with a wide range of actors from government officials to civil society, even to Bollywood actor,” Higginbottom said.

The Maldives established diplomatic relations with the United States of America in 1966, a year after securing independence from the British.

In May, during a visit to Sri Lanka, US Secretary of State John Kerry said democracy is under threat in the Maldives with the arrest of opposition politicians, including former President Mohamed Nasheed.

“We’ve seen even now how regrettably there are troubling signs that democracy is under threat in the Maldives where the former president Nasheed has been imprisoned without due process,” he said.

“This is an injustice that needs to be addressed soon.”

In June, US Senators chairing the Senate Armed Services Committee urged their government to press for the release of all political prisoners in the Maldives.

Nasheed was found guilty on terrorism charges over the military’s detention of criminal court chief judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012. The opposition leader’s 13-year jail term was commuted to house arrest on July 19 amidst rumours that President Abdulla Yameen would pardon Nasheed as part of a deal struck between the government and the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

However, talks between MDP and the government have since stalled with the main opposition party accusing President Yameen of refusing to honour commitments made during the talks.