The Maldives - an island nation of approximately 1192 islands spanning North to South across the Indian Ocean - is no stranger to international relations. Owing to its location at the crossroads of civilisations, the Maldives has always maintained excellent relations with all nations.
The international engagement of the Maldives extended to all corners of the ancient world. The first mention of the Maldives in historical records can be found in the Roman History of Ammianus Marcellinus, who recounted that in the year 362 AD, a delegation from Divi visited the court of Emperor Julian, bearing gifts. Chinese records from 660 AD show that a delegation from the Maldives visited the court of Emperor Kao-Tsung of the Tang Dynasty, also bearing gifts. These delegations represent not only the earliest mentions of the Maldives as a nation, but also the earliest known mentions of the international engagement of the Maldives.
Centuries later, following the adoption of the first constitution of the Maldives in 1932, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Maldives was formally established as the Vuzarat Al-Kharijiyya (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) on 22 December 1932. Al Ameer Hassan Fareed Didi was appointed as the Wazeer Al-Kharijiyya (Minister of Foreign Affairs) on the same day. On 5 July 1934, the Vuzarat Al-Kharijiyya was renamed as the Mahkamat Al-Kharijiyya (Department of Foreign Affairs); a name it would carry for the next 3 decades.
During this time, the Mahkamat Al-Kharijiyya witnessed the transformation of the Maldives from a British Protectorate to a sovereign nation; and from a Constitutional Monarchy to a Republic, and back to a Constitutional Monarchy. It also would witness the outbreak of two World Wars and resultant economic and social upheaval. Throughout these changes, the Mahkamat Al-Kharijiyya worked to maintain the Maldives’ existing relationship with its neighbours and partners and to ensure that the interests of the Maldives and its peoples were protected. With the country gaining independence on 26 July 1965, the Maldives became a member of the United Nations on 21 September 1965 – the first foreign policy decision the country took.
On 11 November 1968, following the establishment of the Second Republic, the Mahkamat Al-Kharijiyya was renamed, the Ministry of External Affairs. Honourable Ahmed Zaki was appointed as the Minister of External Affairs.
On 19 May 1975, the Ministry of External Affairs was renamed, Department of External Affairs. The Department’s name was further changed on 11 March 1978, to Ministry of External Affairs. On 14 March 1978, Uz. Fathulla Jameel was appointed Minister of External Affairs. Uz. Fathulla Jameel would continue to serve as the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Maldives, with distinction for 27 years - the Maldives’ longest serving Minister of Foreign Affairs. On 10 November 1982, the Ministry of External Affairs was renamed to its current name - the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The 70s, and 80s saw transformational change in the foreign policy engagement of the country. The country opened up to the world, with tourism starting in 1972 and expanding rapidly in the Maldives, and the Maldives beginning to establish diplomatic relations with countries across the world. The Maldives opened up for foreign investment and bilateral assistance – up until the late 70s the country had relied on UN support and assistance, having been categorised among the 25 Least Developed Countries in 1969, when the category was first formed.
With the support of bilateral and multilateral assistance, the 90s saw the country’s development level rise. By the end of the 90s, absolute poverty had been eliminated and universal primary education had been achieved. The rising development level allowed for expanded international engagement, with the Maldives signing on to human rights conventions, CEDAW and CRC in 1993, and broadening international engagement on global warming and climate change, especially following the first Earth Summit in Rio in 1992.
The 2000’s saw rapid expansion of Maldives diplomatic presence abroad, with Missions opening in New Delhi, India (2004), Permanent Mission of Maldives to United Nations Offices in Geneva (2006), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2006), Tokyo, Japan (2007), Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (2007), Singapore (2007), Washington, DC (2007 – for the second time), Dhaka, Bangladesh (2008), Beijing, China (2009), and Brussels, Belgium (2010). Further Missions would be opened in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (2012), Berlin, Germany (2016), Bangkok, Thailand (2018), Washington, DC (2023 – for the third time).
For visitors to the capital of Maldives, one of the most iconic buildings in Malé is the “building with the curved roofs”. Shaped like a sailboat, recalling the seafaring origins of the Maldives’ international engagements, the “building with the curved roofs” is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office building. The building also symbolises that it is diplomacy and diplomats that are the first line of defence, and thus, the first ships to sail out. Built with generous assistance from the Government of the People’s Republic of China, and opened in September 2005, it continues to be a landmark of the capital.
In honour of the distinguished and dedicated service of the late Minister Uz. Fathulla Jameel (Order of the Distinguished Rule of Izzuddin), on 15 July 2021, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office building was dedicated as Fathulla Jameel Building. The newly dedicated building was inaugurated by the President of the Republic of Maldives Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.
Since inception, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been staffed by a dedicated, hardworking and capable workforce, part of the Maldives civil service. With the rapid development of Maldives’ international engagements, the need to establish a professional and independent service cadre of the Maldives Foreign Service, was identified. On 14 November 2021, the President of the Republic of Maldives Ibrahim Mohamed Solih ratified the Foreign Service Act, institutionalising the Maldives Foreign Service as an independent service cadre, tasked with implementing the foreign policy of the Maldives.