Bismilla-hirrahma-nirraheem

Distinguished Guests,

Participants,

Ladies and Gentlemen.

Assalam Alaikum, Good morning.

It gives me immense pleasure to address this prestigious institute on the relations between the Maldives and Pakistan, and about the foreign policy of the Maldives under the leadership of His Excellency President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

I wish to take this opportunity to thank the organisers, Director General of Foreign Service Academy Ambassador Iftekhar Aziz, for giving me this opportunity to share some insights about the highly valued, and lasting bonds of friendship between the Maldives and Pakistan.

Ladies and Gentleman,

This morning, I had a productive and fruitful discussion with the Honourable Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The Prime Minister shared with me the fond memories he has about his visits to the Maldives and his commitment to further enhance the partnership between our two countries. And yesterday, I had detailed discussions with His Excellency Sartaj Aziz, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and charted out ways in which we could accelerate the cooperation between the Maldives and Pakistan in areas such as, trade, commerce, aviation, cultural and education. The Maldives and Pakistan have a shared perspective on a number of issues, including regional cooperation in South Asia and global issues, such as countering terrorism, and climate change.

The shared views on these and many other issues are founded on mutual respect and trust, that are underpinned by a deep sense of solidarity between the peoples of the two countries. Last year, we celebrated the golden jubilee of the establishment of diplomatic relations. Yet, the ties between our two peoples goes back to centuries, if not more.

The Maldives is situated across an important trade route for several maritime civilisations such as the Egyptians, Mesopotamians and Indus valley traders, that were used for transporting fresh water fruit and the delicious, smoked black bonito: a delicacy, to Sindh, China and Yemen. As a consequence, traditional linkage can be traced back to the certain craftsmanship and traditional materials used in Maldivian life. Indeed, Lahore was the destination of choice for many Maldivian students, several years before the birth of Pakistan as a nation-State. Maldivian traders travelled to Karachi in their sailing boats in the south-eastern monsoon. After the Maldives established its own shipping line in 1970, Karachi was one of the most important ports, and for several years, the Government of Maldives maintained a representative in Karachi for the national shipping company.

Developments in several parts of South Asia in the late 1970s and 1980s had damaging impact on the connectivity between major cities in the region, and the decline in trade and commerce between our two countries in the past few decades suffered as a result.

What has not declined, however, is our shared commitment to foster a partnership that is mutually beneficial and that will help in bringing prosperity to the peoples of both countries.

Maldivians have always admired Pakistan, not only for the breath-taking beauty of your country, but for the enterprising leadership that Pakistan has shown on several ideas that the peoples of both countries cherish. On 23 March 2017, the seventy-seventh anniversary of “Pakistan Day” was marked to commemorate the Lahore Resolution. This Declaration, as you know, gave political expression to the idea of a two-nation state in the then- British controlled Indian sub-continent. The birth of a nation-state for Muslims, became a symbol of the faith, a strong advocate for the principles and values of Islam, a notion that the Maldives continues to believe in. Pakistan continues to be a dynamic, progressive, moderate and democratic Islamic country, and firmly against the menace of terrorism, through holding strong to the Islamic ideals of tolerance, respect and unity. These are interests that the Maldives shares in its foreign policy objectives. We have always recognised the important role that Pakistan plays in promoting Islamic solidarity. It is perhaps for that reason that the first multilateral conference that the Maldives participated was the International Islamic Economic Conference at Karachi in 1949, that was sixteen years before the Maldives gained full independence.

 Ladies and Gentlemen:

 Over the years, the Maldives – Pakistan relations have taken qualitative leaps forward, especially after the independence of the Maldives. Prime Minister Nawaz Shareef has made three official visits to the Maldives. In 1987, Pakistan’s national carrier (PIA) – which was a leading air carrier at that time - had frequent scheduled flights to the Maldives carrying tourists from Europe and Asia. This was not only attractive for the Europeans, but was an active passageway for Maldivians, paving the way for the introduction of Pakistan’s famed products like honey Mangoes and facilitating great “people-to-people” contact.

The potential scope for our cooperation beyond that of the traditional diplomatic framework, remains enormously wide. The weakening of connectivity between Pakistan and Maldives, has minimised the potential of trade and, and limited “people-to-people” contact. Nevertheless, political will from both sides, in addition to the close relationship developed, have enabled greater cooperation on defence, economic, trade, health, education, culture and sports, and human resource development and technical exchange programmes. For example, the People’s Majlis building stands as an enduring and powerful symbol of generosity of Pakistan. The living monument of friendship between the people of Pakistan and the people of the Maldives were inaugurated by Honourable Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during his official visit to the Maldives in 1998. During that visit, the Prime Minister became the first foreign leader to speak at an open session of the Maldives Parliament.

The State Visit of President Yameen in May 2015, has signalled a clear vision for mutually beneficial collaboration between the two countries. Intensifying the existing bilateral relations, the two countries are working to increase trade and commerce, by improving connectivity and deepening people to people contacts. In this regard, we look forward to welcoming Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to review all important aspects of bilateral relations, and which will undoubtedly help in expanding further in all important areas.

Pakistan has been an important partner in the development of human resource of the Maldives, from Foreign Service, Teaching, to Medicine, Saria & Law. The generous training opportunities given for junior diplomats from the Maldives, every year, by this institute, is found to be very fruitful in improving the standard of our officers. In addition, the assistance provided for the establishment of the Foreign Service Institute of Maldives, is also appreciated greatly by the Government of Maldives. I thank the Academy for its cooperation, in this regard.

Ladies and Gentleman,

Pakistan is blessed with spectacular landscapes of sky high mountains, lush green valleys, mighty rivers and beautiful lakes; these beautiful vistas, and with the magnificent spirit that it possesses, Pakistan is well poised to welcome tourists to its shores. This is an area we could enhance collaboration in. Inhabitants of shores at-sea level, and underwater beauty in the Maldives, could experience the high landscapes and their wondrous landscapes, while Pakistani honeymooners and families enjoy the tropical beauty and tranquillity of the Maldives to recuperate and replenish minds.

Economic prosperity, enables a healthy standard of life, the achievement of developmental objectives; trade liberalisation can drive greater progress through the removal or the minimisation of impediments to trade across the borders, enabling an optimal environment for businesses, further enhancing cooperation for mutual benefit. Therefore, emphasis should be placed on improving connectivity, better ties across the region for shared destiny, and cultivating harmony and peace. All of this, ultimately leading to greater development gains for all our people.  

The transformative economic agenda of President Yameen focuses on creating favourable, conducive environments for investors, building investor confidence, and enhancing security for investments. And I am pleased to share that we are seeing positive results. The Maldives is ready, and open for business. The Maldives encourages competitive Pakistan companies, investing in housing, real estate, integrated tourism, and other infrastructure development projects, to consider the Maldives.

Distinguished Guests,

The long-standing traditional relationship between Maldives and Pakistan has and will only continue to flourish. The number of official visits between our countries can only continue to bring prosperity and growth. In Sha Allah, we shall soon be convening the Maldives-Pakistan Joint Commission, which is the main framework within which, we work to enhance and further strengthen bilateral cooperation between our countries. 

Increase in official visits, people-to-people contact, business and cultural ties, will only serve to further strengthen our relationship. I am confident that the coming years will continue to further unveil the true potential of Maldives-Pakistan ties, as we move to identify further areas of cooperation.

Once again, thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to address you today. Thank you.