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Maldives and Sri Lanka at 50: A new milestone in bilateral ties

The Diplomatic Society
By Professor  
Marian Srimal Fernando

Maldives and Sri Lanka marked the 50th anniversary of their diplomatic relations in 2015.  The two Indian Ocean island nations share similar lifestyles, cultural and historical affinities, because of their close geographical proximity. Maldives’ strategy requires, above all, the maintenance of strong bonds with Sri Lanka.

Photo: (Seated from l-r)  Former First Lady of the Maldives, Nasreena Ibrahim, Former  Maldivian   President  Maumoon Abdul Gayoom,  Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, Maldivian President  Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom,  First Lady, Madam Fathimath Ibrahim and  Former  Maldivian  President Waheed Hassan at  the commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of Independence of the Republic of Maldives as a Special Guest held at the Dharubaaruge Exhibition Hall in Male on 26th July 2015

The Maldives established formal ties with Sri Lanka on the very first day the nation gained independence, on 26 July 1965.

The long history of Maldivian relations with Sri Lanka goes all the way back to 1906 when Maldives established its first Representative Office in Colombo. There are many  points  of specific intellectual achievement by Sri Lankans which have contributed to the background of Maldivian traditions.  One such was the Maldivian national anthem  "Qaumii Salaam". The melody of the Maldivian national anthem that symbolizes the pride of the nation was composed by Sri Lankan maestro Pundit Amaradeva in 1972.

Going back to 1981 at a state banquet in Male’ the visiting Sri Lankan Minister of Foreign Affairs, late Mr. A. C. S. Hameed said,  “ Maldives is Sri Lanka’s nearest and  dearest and small neighbor.” In response the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Maldives Fathulla Jameel  made a rather interesting comment stating that, “relations between our two nations cannot be any better and closer and these go back to the time when Sri Lanka had not tasted Maldivian fish and the Maldives had not tasted Sri Lankan tea (Verinder  Grover 2002).

In fact, the relationship between Male’ and Colombo can perhaps be best described as a unique relationship and one of the strongest and the friendliest bilateral relationships among the eight South Asian nations.

On 8th December 1985, the Maldives joined the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) along with Sri Lanka and five other states of South Asia. Over the years Maldives status as a SAARC member has also changed its relationship with India and Pakistan as well as its immediate neighbors. The year 1978 can be regarded as a turning point in developing close relations with Maldives and Sri Lanka.