(Eds: Updating with fresh inputs and changing slug)
By Lalit K Jha
Washington, Feb 9 (PTI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump have expressed concern over the political crisis in the Maldives during a phone call in which they also reviewed the security situation in Afghanistan and the Indo-Pacific region, the White House said today.
The Maldives plunged into a political chaos on last Thursday when the Supreme Court ordered the release of nine imprisoned opposition politicians, maintaining that their trials were "politically motivated and flawed".
The Maldivian government led by President Abdulla Yameen has refused to implement the ruling, prompting a wave of protests in Maldives capital, Male. The government also arrested two top judges, including the chief justice.
"Both leaders (Trump and Modi) expressed concern about the political crisis in the Maldives and the importance of respect for democratic institutions and rule of law," the White House said in a readout of the phone call, the first between the two, this year.
The White House said the two leaders also pledged to continue working together to enhance security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.
"Affirming President Trumps South Asia strategy, they reiterated their commitment to supporting Afghanistans security and stability," the White House said.
Modi and Trump also exchanged views on Myanmar and ways to address the plight of the Rohingya refugees.
Some 680,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, putting enormous pressure on the countrys economy.
Recently, Myanmar and Bangladesh agreed on a roadmap to facilitate the return of these refugees to their homes in Myanmar.
The US believes that this is not the right time for the return of Rohingya refugees.
According to the White House, during the call, Trump and Modi also discussed further steps to ensure denuclearisation of North Korea.
"Finally, 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," the White House said.
The 2+2 dialogue was announced after the White House meeting between Modi and Trump in June 2017.
The dialogue would involve External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman from India along with their American counterparts Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis. PTI LKJ AJR NSA AKJ NSA