At the time of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's inauguration on 17th November 2018, the Maldives had become isolated from the outside world. The country’s name and rapport was tainted in the eyes of the international community requiring increased efforts to bring the country back to its original position.
This task fell on the shoulders of the current administration, and especially on Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdulla Shahid. Since his appointment, the minister has traveled far and wide to meet representatives of foreign countries, for which the minister has faced criticism due to its frequency.
Nevertheless, the result of these visits have been fantastic and ultimately benefited the common man.
These include visa-waivers from Morocco, Russia, Thailand, India, and the UAE, in addition to special visa arrangements for parents and guardians of students studying in Sri Lanka, and opening an embassy in Thailand.
The minister has also been advocating for action against climate change, a controversial topic in the international sphere with countries such as America rejecting the Paris Agreement.
It is also important to note Maldives' almost non-existent ties with India at the time of Solih's inauguration, which has since flourished with both leaders making state visits to each other's nations within the first year. India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had even attended Solih's inauguration ceremony.
Foreign Ministry achieves 100% of goals listed in administration’s 100-day pledges
On the same day that President Solih was inaugurated, the president’s office published a document listing pledges to be achieved in the first 100 days of taking office. This included two goals for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; submitting a proposal to return to the Commonwealth and the expedition of cases in UN working groups and human rights mechanisms.
Maldives journey to return to the Commonwealth
Former president Yameen’s decision to leave the Commonwealth in 2016, excluded the average Maldivian from countless scholarship opportunities offered by the organization, and was widely criticized. To rectify this mistake, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih sent a letter of intent of the country’s commitment to return to the commonwealth to the organization’s Secretary-General, during his first week in office as promised.
Maldives' membership application has been supported by countries such as Canada, Australia and India with Tariq Mahmood Ahmad, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs at the British Foreign Office, speaking on the Maldives behalf at the UK House of Lords in favor of fast tracking Maldives’ re-admittance to the Commonwealth.
Several officials have confirmed that membership will be approved in time the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Rwanda scheduled for 22 June, at the latest.
Minister Shahid met with 81 international representatives
Rejoining the commonwealth was the first and foremost task undertaken by the minister but it has not been the ministry’s only priority.
According to the minister, the ministry’s main aim has been to make the Maldives a country recognized by the international community on global issues while building bilateral ties.
So far, the minister has an impressive track record of holding meetings with representatives of 81 countries, 11 presidents, 13 prime ministers, 39 foreign ministers, in addition to 56 ambassadors.
Many of these meetings were held on the sidelines of the Organization of Islamic Corporation (OIC) Summit, including the meeting with Riyad Al-Maliki, Foreign Minister of the State of Palestine.
Moreover, the ministry has also extended an invitation to United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, that was previously blocked by the former administration.
In the past year, the country has welcomed visits from Frederica Mogherini, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission as well as two visits from the Commonwealth delegation.
It would not be a false to claim that former President Abdulla Yameen’s government had a contentious relationship with the international community.
MVR 3.21 billion in foreign aid to the Maldives
The Maldives has received a total of MVR 3.21 billion in foreign aid, a significant increase from the original prediction of MVR1.3billion as anticipated in January 2019.