The Maldives has signed an MOU with the UN, agreeing to actively contribute to peacekeeping operations as observers and infantry.
The agreement, signed in New York by the Maldives ambassador to the UN Ahmed Sareer last week, is the first of its kind to be signed by the country.
“This agreement marks a new era in relations between the Maldives and the UN,” said Sareer upon signing the agreement with UN Under Secretary-General Hervé Ladsous.
“With the maturation of the Maldivian State, we look forward to taking up the mantle of leadership in all of our international endeavors. No matter how small the nation, all have an obligation to maintaining and sustaining the security of populations across the globe.”
A small contingent of military observers and infantry personnel will be deployed over the next two years, explained a press release from the Foreign Ministry.
An Maldives National Defence Force statement added that the participation of the Maldives’ troops would decided upon by the government.
Under Secretary-General Hervé Ladsous commented that the Maldives assistance would be invaluable to the UN’s work.
“Maldives’ experience in protecting its incredibly porous border provides invaluable expertise in addressing modern threats, including the prevention of; piracy, trafficking and maritime conflict,” said Lasdous.
Shortly after assuming office last November, the government of President Abdulla Yameen revealed that the country’s foreign policy would involve promoting Islamic characteristics internationally, and increasing South Asian regional cooperation.
The initial parliamentary approval for Maldivian participation in UN peacekeeping missions was granted in October 2011 although there was some opposition at the time from those who argued that Maldivians ought not to be involved in foreign conflicts.
As well as 11 dissenting MPs, religious NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf expressed concerns that Maldivians would be forced to fight against fellow-Muslims.
“Taking part in the UN peacekeeping operations will force Maldivian forces to fight against Muslims which is unacceptable,” said a statement from Jamiyyathul Salaf at the time.
“Disregarding our own society and getting involved in these matters for the sake of earning respect from powerful countries shows how much the future of this nation is being disregarded,” said Salaf.
After approval by the cabinet in early 2011, the President’s Office expressed hope that the arrangement would enhance understanding of the international security environment as well as consolidating the country’s credibility internationally.
The ensuing two years since the approval of peacekeeping involvement has seen a series of damning UN reports – notably on the Maldives’ judiciary and human rights record – often resulting in terse responses from the government.