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Trump, Modi discuss Maldives

| | Washington/Beijing
Trump, Modi discuss Maldives

As President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed their concern over the political crisis in the Maldives, China on Friday said it is in touch with India to discuss a way to resolve the political turmoil gripping the Maldives and underlined that Beijing doesn’t want the issue to become another “flashpoint”.  Trump and Modi also discussed on telephone issues like enhancing India-Pacific security and the India-US ‘2+2’ ministerial dialogue.

While China officially continues to maintain that there should not be any external interference in the Maldives, specially in the light of reports of India’s special forces ready for deployment, Beijing is in touch with India to resolve the crisis, Chinese official sources said.

“Both Modi and Trump expressed concern about the political crisis in the Maldives and the importance of respect for democratic institutions and rule of law,” a White House readout of the call late on Thursday said.

“The leaders pledged to continue working together to enhance security and prosperity in the India-Pacific region,” it said, noting, “The leaders agreed to strengthen security and economic cooperation as they look forward to the 2+2 ministerial dialogue between their defence and diplomatic officials in April.”

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will hold the inaugural round of this upgraded dialogue format with their US counterparts —  Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defence Secretary James Mattis in Washington. The Trump-Modi discussions took place against the backdrop of Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen’s recent actions, plunging the country into political turmoil by declaring emergency, arresting the Chief Justice and another Supreme Court judge, and rejecting court orders to release nine imprisoned Opposition politicians, including former President Mohammed Nasheed.

In recent days, both India and the United States have sought to step up pressure on the Maldivian leader. While New Delhi hardened its stance by refusing to grant an audience to a special envoy of the Maldivian leader, the US State Department has already issued a strongly-worded statement earlier this week.

“The United States calls on President Yameen, the army, and police to comply with the rule of law, implement the Supreme Court’s ruling and the rulings of the Criminal Court, ensure the full and proper functioning of the Parliament, and restore constitutionally guaranteed rights of the people and institutions of the Maldives,” the State Department had said .

During their telephonic conversation, Trump and Modi also focused on the situation in Afghanistan. “Affirming President Trump’s South Asia strategy, they reiterated their commitment to supporting Afghanistan’s security and stability,” the White House statement said.

They also exchanged views on Myanmar and ways to address the plight of the Rohingya refugees, the statement said, adding, “Trump and Modi then discussed further steps to ensure denuclearisation of North Korea.”

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