Pakistan’s Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Asif Sandila arrived in the Maldives yesterday (October 9) at the invitation of Maldives Chief of Defence Force Major General Ahmed Shiyam.
President Mohamed Waheed awarded the Admiral with the ‘Nishaan Muleege Sharafge Izzaiy’ (‘Order of Distinguished Rule of Muleege’) – one of the highest ranking honors conferred by the state – in recognition of his dedicated efforts to provide humanitarian assistance in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami. The award was previously established in honour of Al-Sultan Mohamed Shamsuddeen.
When the tsunami hit the Maldives on December 26, 2004, Admiral Sandila was the Mission Commander of two Pakistani Naval Ships, P.N.S Tariq and P.N.S Nasr, which were on a goodwill visit to the country.
As the initial responders to the “critical situation” the Pakistani naval ships took “prompt action” conducting search and rescue operations, evacuating citizens and tourists from affected islands, conducting the initial damage assessment, and providing critical food and relief supplies to devastated islands in the aftermath tsunami, said the President’s Office.
“At the time of the worst ever natural disaster in the recent history of Maldives, Admiral Sandila proved above and beyond the call of duty to be a source of exemplary service and dedication which was symbolic of the long standing fraternal relation between the Maldives and Pakistan,” said President Waheed during this morning’s (October 10) award ceremony.
Admiral Sandila is also scheduled to meet with Minister of Defence and National Security Colonel (Rtd) Mohamed Nazim during his two day official visit and will depart from the Maldives tonight, according to local media.
Past Pakistani controversy
In November 2011, the allegedly “idolatrous” Pakistani monument erected for the SAARC summit was set on fire by a group of people in Hithadhoo, Addu City after two young men toppled the monument during an earlier protest.
The monument, which featured engraved symbols of Pakistan’s ancient civilisation and a bust of the country’s founder Mohamed Ali Jinah, had been removed by the Addu City Council the previous week but was replaced back on its plinth with a cover ahead of the unveiling ceremony.
A member of the Pakistani delegation at the unveiling ceremony explained to Minivan News that the monument represented artifacts of the ancient Indus Valley civilisation and were not specifically religious symbols.
Following the first attempt to vandalise the monument, a second member of the Pakistani delegation told Minivan News that they approached the Maldives’ Foreign Ministry over the incident but was informed by an official that it had not occurred, and was a rumour spread by the opposition.