India, Maldives to sign counter-terror pact

India Maldives

Against the backdrop of militant groups trying to enhance their stranglehold in the picturesque Indian Ocean island nation, India and the Maldives are poised to sign an agreement for cooperation on terrorism, transnational crime and criminal matters.

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given its approval for signing of a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) in criminal matters between India and the Maldives. The treaty aims to enhance the effectiveness of both the countries in investigation and prosecution of crime, through cooperation and mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, according to an official statement.

Relations between India and the Maldives had hit a low after the arrest of the former President of the Maldives Mohammed Nasheed, which India has described as undemocratic. This move by the Maldives was seen as one of the major reasons for the cancellation of Mr Modi’s visit to Maldives in early 2015. However, the two sides have decided to rejuvenate their ties and the recent visit of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to the Maldives to attend the fifth India-Maldives Joint Commission was a step in that direction.

The proposed treaty will provide a framework for bilateral cooperation in investigation and prosecution of crime, tracing, restraint and confiscation of proceeds, and instruments of crime as well as funds meant to finance terrorist acts. For the first time in the Joint Commission meeting between the two countries, defence and security were a part of the discussions. During Ms Swaraj’s visit to the Maldives, the two countries had underscored that increased cooperation would help combat the growing menace of drug trafficking and financing of terrorism in the region.

Under MLAT countries have developed mechanisms amongst themselves for requesting and obtaining evidence for criminal investigations and prosecutions. With the rise of increased radicalism and violence in the region, strengthening cooperation between the two countries to combat it is a positive move.

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