Thursday, 8 May 2003  
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Maldives-Sri Lanka relations

Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's state visit to Sri Lanka, besides strengthening existing ties between the countries, underscores the long cordiality and harmony which characterize Maldives-Sri Lanka relations. It could be said without fear of contradiction that ties between the Maldives and Sri Lanka have withstood the test of time and have assumed the nature of a model relationship between states in the South Asian region.

It is our wish that the ties which the Maldives and Sri Lanka have been enjoying from the distant past would continue to flourish and work to the mutual advantage of the countries.

As could be gathered, bilateral trade and commercial links between our countries have advanced well beyond the times when the Maldives were remembered most among some in this land for their famed Maldive Fish. Under the steady statesmanship and guidance of President Gayoom not only have the archipelago's relations with Sri Lanka flourished and been broad-based but the Maldives have advanced to the position of a relatively better off State in the poverty-infested SAARC region.

For instance, the Maldive islands have flowered into an important tourist destination. They have made similar strides in the garment industry. The atolls' business links with Sri Lanka seem to have grown in tandem with these developments. It is also well-known that the Maldives have made steady progress in the educational and literacy spheres.

Today they are a force to be reckoned with in the area of literacy, in the South Asian region. Development in all these and many more respects could be attributed to wise leadership and guidance, besides the capabilities the Maldivian people have been endowed with.

Coming to SAARC concerns, President Gayoom would be best remembered for the role he played in establishing the regional grouping and in steering SAARC towards socially-beneficial goals. Only recently, President Gayoom helped convene in the Maldives, a meeting of SAARC Health Ministers for the purpose of working out a SARS prevention plan, although South Asia is yet to be touched in a big way by this disease.

With the signs of a thaw emerging in Indo-Pakistan relations, countries such as the Maldives and Sri Lanka should explore every avenue of restoring SAARC unity and of re-establishing in full the operational capability of the regional body.

These should be regarded as urgent tasks in view of the boon the organisation could turn out to be for the majority of the world's poor inhabiting South Asia. With his vast experience, President Gayoom could prove an invaluable asset in SAARC's onward march.


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