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Indian PM to visit Maldives after U-turn on Nasheed .....

Indian PM to visit Maldives after U-turn on Nasheed report - Haveeru Online, Jan 17, 2016

President Yameen shakes hands with Indian Prime Minister Modi during a meeting held on the sidelines of the SAARC Summit in 2014. FILE PHOTO/ AFP

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi is expected to undertake his long-delayed visit to Maldives after government allowed jailed former President Mohamed Nasheed to seek medical treatment overseas, Indian media reported Sunday.

Modi’s scheduled visit to the Maldives in March was called off due to the increasing political strife in the Maldives at the time. His cancellation came after Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in prison in March for ordering the arbitrary detention of chief criminal judge Abdulla Mohamed during his presidency.

Nasheed had sought permission to go abroad for a surgery on his back, but Correctional Service had repeatedly denied the request insisting that the microdiscectomy surgery could be done in the Maldives.

However, in an apparent U-turn, foreign ministry announced on twitter Saturday the government had granted permission to Nasheed to travel to UK to undergo surgery, at his request. He is expected to leave to the UK Sunday  evening.

India’s The Hindu quoted Indian officials as saying that the government’s move will effectively pave the way for Prime Minister Modi to visit the Maldives. Officials told The Hindu that Indian external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and foreign secretary Jaishankar, who had visited the Maldives recently, had pressed upon the need to treat Nasheed “in accordance with his status as a former elected leader.”

“We needed to see some relief for the former president before PM Modi could plan a visit,” a senior official explained.

Government’s U-turn on Nasheed came in the wake of visits by the Indian foreign secretary and two senior Sri Lankan ministers which also coincides with a visit by the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of UK Hugo Swire who arrived earlier Sunday.

Indian foreign secretary Jaishankar arrived in Maldives Monday afternoon on a one-day official visit as a special envoy of the Indian prime minister. President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom briefed Jaishankar on the political developments in the Maldives and secured the regional superpower's backing in domestic and international affairs.

Sri Lankan foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera and finance minister Ravi Karunanayake arrived in Maldives Wednesday evening on an official visit.

The government has come under pressure as Maldives' international partners’ calls for Nasheed’s release echoed louder after a UN panel ruled that Nasheed's detention was arbitrary.

The international criticism and the UN panel ruling in September were, however, rejected by the government.

The former president, meanwhile, had filed for appeal his prison sentence after backtracking on his decision to not appeal his sentence by opting to go to the Supreme Court instead.

In his appeal, Nasheed had sought a lesser penalty under the new penal code that came into effect in November. The Supreme Court had also been asked to nullify the charges lodged against him in the lower court and the subsequent sentence.

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