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MALDIVES, INDO-PACIFIC REGION FIGURE IN MODI-TRUMP PHONE CONVERSATION By Arul Louis
10:09:09 am 09-February-2018
New York, 9th Feb (IANS): Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump have expressed concern over the political crisis in Maldives during wide-ranging discussions covering developments in South Asia and the Indo-Pacific region, according to the White House.

"Both leaders expressed concern about the political crisis in Maldives and the importance of respect for democratic institutions and rule of law," during their phone conversation on Thursday, a statement by the press office said.

Affirming Trump's South Asia strategy, they pledged to continue working together to enhance security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and to strengthen security and economic cooperation, the statement said.

They said they looked forward to the "2+2 Meeting" of the Indian ministers of defence and external affairs and the US secretaries of defence and state in April.

On Afghanistan, which was the keystone of the South Asia Strategy announced in August, they reiterated their commitment to back efforts to support the violence-wracked nation's security and stability.

Closer to India, they discussed ways to address the plight of the Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and the situation in that country, the statement said.

On an issue at the top of US foreign policy priorities, North Korea, Modi and Trump discussed further steps to denuclearise Pyongyang.

While China that is working on forging close links with the nation of Indian Ocean atolls and backing Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen, New Delhi and Washington shared a common perspective in opposing the state of emergency he declared this week and want a return to democracy.

After the Supreme Court overturned the terrorism conviction of former president Mohamed Nasheed as well as the convictions of eight other politicians on several charges, Yameen impsed the state of emergency on Monday night.

Two of the five Supreme Court judges were arrested by government forces and the other three overturned their unanimous ruling ordering the release of the nine politicians.

As part of his South Asia strategy, Trump wanted India to provide more aid to Afghanistan.

He also put Islamabad on notice for harbouring terrorists, and followed it up last month by withholding security assistance to Pakistan estimated at over $1 billion.

In the Indo-Pacific region, Trump is promoting cooperation between the four democracies - Indian, US, Japan and Australia - to be a countervailing force to China.
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