Maldives' UNGA Presidency: Prospects for India
Cchavi Vasisht, Research Associate, VIF

On 21 September 2021, Maldivian President Ibrahim Solih delivered his first speech at the UNGA. He spoke in Maldives’ official language Dhivehi and highlighted the rich culture and heritage of the country. He recollected the journey of Maldives accession into the UN in 1965, after 26 days of independent existence and was skeptical about how a small nation could effectively contribute to the goals and objectives of the UN.

However, with years of its association, Maldives has proven itself and upheld the norms of multilateralism bringing into focus the issues of climate change; for instance, it hosted “Small states conference on Sea-level rise” in 1989, and so on. Except for a short phase, when Abdulla Yameen (2013-18) was in power, Maldives actively supported multilatéral organisations. During Yameen’s rule, Maldives withdrew from the Commonwealth and lost its bid for a non-permanent seat on the UNSC from the Asia Pacific region in 2018. Later, during the Solih regime, Maldives re-joined the Commonwealth.

He stated that “Hope is a highly desirable commodity in these difficult times” and hoped for achieving the goals for rights and determination, justice and sustainability. Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid had earlier raised the theme of hope in his vision statement titled “A Presidency of Hope: Delivering for People, Planet and Prosperity” in April 2021. Minister Shahid outlined five “rays of hope”, namely, “Recovering from COVID19, Rebuilding Sustainably, Responding to the Needs of the Planet, Respecting the Rights of All, and Reforming the UN”.

Prospects for India

Since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the Maldives, India-Maldives relations have received a significant boost. PM Modi’s visit was followed by Maldivian President Ibrahim Solih visit to India in 2018. With the appointment of the Foreign Minister of Maldives Abdulla Shahid as the President of the 76th Session of the UNGA, it is essential to look into the prospects that lie ahead for India.

For the first time in the history of the UN, Maldives is holding the office of President at the UNGA. Soon after the declaration of his candidature, India was the first country to extend its support. The role of the presidency is important as the president decides the topics of discussion and issues statements on matters of importance. It is essential that these topics and statements are not against India as has been in few incidents in the past.

There is a hope that Maldives presidency in the UNGA for the year will create favourable conditions for India, which addresses India’s security and other interests. Maldivian Foreign Minister also visited India on 22-24 July 2021. He discussed his priorities as a UNGA President with India and sought India’s cooperation in achieving these priorities. Minister Shahid reiterated the concept of “reformed multilateralism” called upon by the Indian PM Modi during the 75th session of the UNGA. India is a priority for the Maldives and this is visible as FM Shahid appointed an Indian member as the Chef-de-Cabinet-designate of the Office of the President for his term, Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador, Nagaraj Naidu.

One of the key priority areas for India is to create effective responses against terrorism, which the Maldivian President during his speech highlighted as one of his key goals. He talked about the “madness of terrorism” and the need for world countries to fight against it. Also, the fight against COVID-19 is one of the priorities for the presidency. It must be noted that India was one of the first countries to send medical help and supplied vaccines within 48 hours of commencing its drive within the country. The Maldivian President also raised concerns for the climate change issues.

The Maldives also supports India’s permanent membership at the UNSC. However, the revival of the ‘India Out’ campaign across social media sites has raised concerns about Maldives’ sentiments for India; however, the support by the political leadership is evident at various events cited above. The Maldivian government’s foreign relations had hit rock bottom during Yameen’s regime. However, the Solih Government has made active efforts to establish closer relationship with India and has actively reciprocated India’s “neighbourhood first” policy with an “India first” policy.

Indian PM Modi also identified the priority areas highlighted by the Maldivian President during the address to the 76th session of UNGA. PM Modi stated that “using terrorism as a political tool will backfire on those practicing it”. PM Modi also raised his voice for speeding the UNSC reforms which has been pending for decades. He also supported the norms of democracy and reaffirmed his faith by stating that “democracy can deliver, democracy has delivered”.

He also raised concern for preserving ocean systems as they serve as lifelines for trade, and the need for world countries to fight against troubles of climate change and forge global partnerships under SDG 17 (Sustainable Development Goal). Finally, the most immediate challenge which the world countries face i.e. COVID-19 must be addressed. India has been a forerunner in supporting the countries with medical help and vaccines, and would soon resume the supply of vaccines.

Despite questions being raised about the relevance and effectiveness of the United Nations, it continues to be looked upon favourably by more than two-thirds of the world population (Pew Research Poll). However, the year ahead is full of challenges with the resurgence of COVID-19 cases, political instability in Afghanistan and Myanmar and the regional and multilateral politics divided, the rise of China and US-China rivalry; Maldivian “Presidency of Hope” is likely to be full of diverse challenges.


(The paper is the author’s individual scholastic articulation. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct). (The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance... More >>

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