Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid has said that President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih believes that a prosperous and democratic Maldives is necessary for maintaining the strategic stability of the Indian Ocean.
He said this at a roundtable discussion hosted by The Atlantic Council in Washington DC on Wednesday.
At the discussion, Minister Shahid said there is a mutual dependency between the Maldives and the Indian Ocean, since the Maldives lies right in the middle of the Indian Ocean on the major sea lines of communication.
Shahid said that the President has identified the principles of democracy and good governance as essential to upholding order in the Indian Ocean, as well as strengthening institutions that can make political leaders accountable.
“When institutions are weak, especially in small states where democracy is still at its infant stages, it creates space for authoritarian leaders to thrive and compromise even the most cherished values of society. Too often, crucial foreign policy decisions become victim to such recklessness.
In the last seven years, political leaders in the Maldives engaged in a systematic dismantling of the accountability mechanism in the country. This allowed a culture of impunity to thrive. As a result, some of the key principles of the Maldives foreign policy were compromised.”
Highlighting that this caused the credibility and respect Maldives gained to be diminished to dangerous levels, Minister Shahid said that the independence of Maldives, especially in relation to Indian ocean security, were compromised and the time-tested policies towards Indian and the United States were victims of such concessions.
Minister Shahid said that President Solih was elected on a platform that promises to reestablish the accountability mechanisms and to strengthen democratic institutions, to clamp down corruption and to collaborate with democratic forces and to uphold order in the Indian ocean.
“The Maldives will hold parliamentary elections in April 2019, and that will be a test of what the liberal government can deliver against the alternative vision of the opposition, which has the features of a dictatorship. The support of our partners is crucial to ensure that undemocratic forces do not reemerge and reverse the gains the country is making.”
Minister Shahid also expressed appreciation for the support the United States has given to Maldives to establish mechanisms to stop economic and financial crimes and a framework for external debt management. He said that he will be meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss their progress and plans for the future.
“The United States has been a key source of stability and security in the Indian Ocean for the past five decades. It is therefore crucial that the United States finds a strong partner in the Maldives, that can collaborate in maintaining and upholding order in the Indian Ocean. We have already announced our support for the Indo-Pacific strategy that Secretary Pompeo announced last year. We are convinced that this strategy will foster stronger partnership and help to achieve better coordination in the region.”
He also said that the Maldives enjoys excellent friendship with India, which plays a key role in maintaining promoting strategic stability in the Indian Ocean, and that President Solih has assured that the new government will support India’s position in maintaining the security in the Indian ocean.
Highlighting that China’s role in the Indian ocean has been on the increase, while Maldives has cordial relations with China, however these ties will not seek to antagonize either India or the United States.