After GMR fracas, Male finally out to mend fences with Delhi
After the freezing of ties with India following the cancellation of the GMR contract for Male airport, Maldives has finally warmed up to New Delhi - listing out a series of measures across various categories to enhance the inflow of Indian tourists.
In a communication to the Indian government on December 30, Maldives said it is taking steps to 'strengthen' existing ties between the two countries. It also sought an "immediate solutions to the problems" faced by its nationals for getting Indian visas.
After the GMR controversy, India had tightened visa norms - causing immense hardships to Maldives nationals who intended to come visiting on tourist visas.
People who wanted to come to India for medical treatment were the most affected by this.
Though New Delhi had frequently complained regarding problems faced by Indians in Maldives, it had never implemented strict reciprocity on visa matters.
The Indians in Maldives, numbering 30,000, account for 10% of the total population there. The Indian mission issues 50 to 70 visas a day to Maldives nationals daily, and unlike them, does not charge a visa fee.
Maldives has now expanded the dependent visa category of Indians working there to include parents and children below the age of 18. Domestic help working for Indian professionals in Maldives will be given domestic servant visas.
Also, the Indian High Commission in Male will attest all contracts given to Indian workers from January 1, 2013, and ensure that Indians working in Maldives do not face hassles while travelling home on leave.
As is the practice in some Gulf countries, employers in Maldives keep the passports of their employees, and impose fines even for staying away beyond the stipulated time limit due to unavoidable circumstances.
Indians officials said that New Delhi doesn't "generally" impose a penalty for such reasons.
Over the last two months, both the countries have been working silently to enhance their air connectivity.
It has been observed that a daily flight between Male and Thiruvananthapuram, and thrice-a-week flight between Mumbai and Male, were not enough to handle the passenger load.
Now, daily flights connect Maldives with more Indian cities, such as Kochi, Chennai and Maldives. This would enable more Indian tourists to visit Maldives.
Around 20,000 to 20,000 Indian tourists visit Maldives every year, as compared to 200,000 from China.