The new Indian High Commissioner to the Maldives, Akilesh Mishra, presented his credentials to President Abdulla Yameen this morning.
At today’s meeting, the new High Commissioner assured the president of India’s continued support and assistance, according to the president’s office. The pair also discussed strengthening India-Maldives bilateral relations.
Mishra, formerly India’s consul general in Toronto, Canada, replaces outgoing High Commissioner Rajeev Shahare, who had taken up the post in April 2013. He was appointed the new Indian ambassador to Denmark in August.
Mishra had also served as joint secretary in the external affairs ministry, dealing with India’s relations with Nepal and Bhutan, and as joint secretary in charge of the multilateral economic relations division.
Mishra assumes office amidst improving Indo-Maldives relations, which came under strain with the imprisonment of former President Mohamed Nasheed last year.
The opposition leader’s 13-year jail sentence after a rushed trial in March had drawn widespread international condemnation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi subsequently dropped the Maldives from his Indian Ocean tour.
In the wake of a UN human rights panel declaring Nasheed’s jailing illegal and politically motivated last October, India’s ruling BJP leader Subramaniam Swamy had called on Modi to send a special envoy to Maldives to secure Nasheed’s release.
But India has not made any public statements on Nasheed’s case either since his conviction in March or after the judgment by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in October.
Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj arrived on an official visit to the Maldives later that month, during which a Maldives-India joint commission was revived after a 15-year hiatus. Commitments were made to broadening cooperation in the defence, human resource, trade and health sectors.
Indian Foreign Secretary Dr S Jaishankar meanwhile departed yesterday after concluding his third official visit to the Maldives.
The foreign secretary’s previous visit came in August last year after the opposition raised fears of Chinese military expansion in the Maldives following controversial amendments brought to the constitution that allow foreigners to own freeholds in the country.
New Delhi is reportedly concerned over China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean with plans to build a network of ports dubbed the ‘string of pearls.’
But Yameen assured the Indian government at the time of the Maldives’ commitment to “keep the Indian Ocean a demilitarised zone.”
At a meeting with the outgoing Indian High Commissioner last month, Yameen lauded India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy and urged other South Asian nations to “adopt similar stances.”