President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan yesterday described the Maldives’ first ever National Defence Policy as “the main axis of civil protection”, resting on a bedrock of Islam and national unity.
Waheed’s comments came during the official launch of the policy white papers at the Islamic Centre in Male’, yesterday morning.
In his speech, Waheed described the policies as “institutionalised embodiments of civil protection” which ought to be respected by all government bodies.
“Contained [within] are also important policies which protect individual, social and economic freedoms, and promote environmental conservation in conjunction with strategies for sustainable development,” said Waheed.
The President stressed that civil protection was not just the responsibility of a few institutions, highlighting the importance of “sharing common objectives, so as to facilitate adherence to a well-determined course of action.”
Waheed also launched the new Ministry of Defence and National Security website, which included further details of the policies.
The site, designed as a portal for the Ministry’s public services, stated that the Defence and Security policies are available on its own as well as the President’s Office website.
Neither document was available at the time of press although Colonel Abdul Raheem of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) told Minivan News that they would be available soon.
When asked why the government had decided to produce these policy documents, the first time the country has done so, Raheem said that it was a standard practice in other countries.
No spokesman for the President’s Office was available at the time of press.
“The National Security Policy outlines a fundamental and comprehensive framework on inter-related issues and concerns that may impinge on national security,” reported the Ministry’s statement.
“The National Defence Policy outlines the way forward to fulfill the mandate of the Ministry of Defence and National Security and gives policy guidance to the three major components under the Ministry; the Maldives National Defence Force, Disaster Management Center and Aviation Security Command,” it continued.
The statement described the National Security Policy as providing national priorities in order to guide related policies across all government departments.
“It guides the national decision making process so that the sovereignty and territorial integrity, the well-being of the people and state institutions and other national interests are protected and enhanced,” read the statement.
State Minister for Islamic Affairs Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali told Minivan News that he fully supported the new National Defence Policy.
“I feel it is important to get protection from acts of terrorism and extremism”, he said
Indian Defence Minister to visit
The Minister of Defence and National Security, Mohamed Nazim, has this week invited Indian Defence Minister A.K. Anthony to visit the country to officiate at the opening of the Maldivian Military Hospital as well as to the lay the foundation stone for the new MNDF training academy.
An Indian government press release has revealed that Anthony will be accompanied by a high level delegation which will include Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma.
Having last visited the Maldives in 2009, international headlines have linked this visit to the rapidly expanding relations between the Maldives and China.
Waheed visited China at the start of the month, where he finalised agreements for a package of loans amounting to $500million (MVR7.7billion).
Despite Sino-Maldivian links having grown largely due to China providing more tourists to the Maldives than any other nation, the enhanced ties have led to speculation regarding Chinese naval ambitions in the Indian Ocean – often referred to as the ‘string of pearls’ theory.
Former Maldivian Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed acknowledged at the time of Waheed’s state visit that India would be worried after its perceived diplomatic failings during the Maldives’ recent political upheavals.
However, Shaheed added that increased economic ties in the absence of new military ones did not represent a policy shift by the new government.
The Indian government this week extended a further $25million to the Maldives as part of a $100million credit facility agreed last November.
In a comment piece for local paper Haveeru today, Special Advisor to the President Dr Hassan Saeed lamented the government’s growing reliance on foreign aid.
“The reality is that our long held beliefs and values are today tradable commodities. Our sovereignty is compromised and we enjoy far less respect,” wrote Dr Hassan.
The Indian government reported that its defense minister would seek to strengthen cooperation in the defence sector during his visit to the Maldives.
It drew attention to the regular interactions between the countries’ military forces, which this year has included joint naval patrols of the Maldives’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).