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Maldives - US Relations

The U.S. has friendly relations with the Republic of Maldives. The U.S. Ambassador and many Embassy staff in Sri Lanka are accredited to Maldives and make periodic visits. The U.S. has sought to support Maldives’ ongoing democratic initiatives and economic development agenda. U.S. Naval vessels have regularly called at Male in recent years. Maldives has extended strong support to U.S. efforts to combat terrorism and terrorist financing.

Maldives is a moderate, pro-American Islamic country that cooperates on American military objectives and is responsive to US advice on reform and openness. In a generation, it has gone from being South Asia's poorest country to that with the region's highest per-capita income. However, Maldives is at a crossroads as halting progress on allowing greater pluralism, a young population with a rising drug problem, growing Islamic extremism, and economic strains on its poorer citizens, pose significant challenges to President Gayoom and his country's pro-Western outlook. Despite these obstacles, progress remains possible. The US can play a significant role in supporting Maldives' efforts to achieve democratic and economic reform. U.S. contributions to economic development in Maldives have been made principally through international organization programs. Following the December 2004 tsunami, the U.S. and Maldives signed a bilateral assistance agreement for $8.6 million in reconstruction assistance. This assistance helped to rebuild harbors, sewerage systems, and electrical generation facilities and in the development of aid absorption capacity in the Ministry of Finance. The U.S. has directly funded training in airport management, narcotics interdiction, and counter-terrorism efforts, and provided desktop computers for Maldivian customs, immigration, and drug-control efforts in recent years. At the March 2010 Maldives donor forum, the U.S. (largely through the U.S. Agency for International Development--USAID) pledged $4.6 million for climate change adaptation, bond market reform, maritime security, border security, and International Military Education and Training (IMET). The U.S. also trains a small number of Maldivian military personnel and security forces annually.

About 10 U.S. citizens are resident in Maldives; some 5,000 Americans visit Maldives annually. Maldives welcomes foreign investment, although the ambiguity of codified law acts as a damper to new investment. Maldives signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the U.S. in October 2009, was granted GSP trade benefits in December 2009, and signed an Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) agreement with the U.S. in March 2010. Areas of opportunity for U.S. businesses include tourism, construction, and simple export-oriented manufacturing, such as garments and electrical appliance assembly.

The Maritime Zones of Maldives Act No. 6/96 established archipelagic straight baselines. Vessels transiting through the archipelagic waters should take passage only through routes historically used for international navigation: Equatorial Channel, 11/2 Degree Channel, and Kaashidhoo Channel. Requires prior permission for overflight of archipelagic waters by foreign military aircraft. The U.S. does not recognize these claims. The U.S. protested excessive straight baselines, attempt to limit archipelagic sea lanes passage to undesignated sea lanes, and restrictions on overflight in CY 2001 and conducted an operational assertion in FY 2002.

With the White House approval for Maldives to receive defense articles and services, the US would look for ways to provide assistance to Maldives

In 2006, Maldivian security services held two sets of joint exercises with US troops, demonstrating competence, professionalism, and eagerness to increase interoperability and support for US objectives. Due to Maldives' relative proximity to Diego Garcia, the US often called on the Government of the Republic of Maldives for travel clearances for US ships and aircraft in Maldivian space and received positive responses and full cooperation. Despite its small population and limited applicant pool, Maldivians consistently earn places at US military academies and perform well there. The receptiveness of Maldivian defense officials to broader and deeper cooperation with US counterparts is a significant opportunity to enhance relations with a 100 percent Islamic country in a strategic part of the world. Maldives' proximity to the Persian Gulf and its historical and commercial ties to that region further leverage the benefit to be gained by expanding our security relationship. The US should continue to seek increased contact between militaries, in particular by trying to arrange more frequent ship visits, training opportunities through IMET and other programs, and joint exercises.

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Page last modified: 04-08-2015 20:45:07 ZULU