Washington, Oct 23 (PTI) Top American diplomat Mike Pompeo is the first Secretary of State to visit the Maldives in 16 years, a development reflective of the Trump Administration’s strong desire to strengthen its ties with island nations in the Indo-Pacific region to thwart the increasing Chinese influence.
Pompeo, 56, is scheduled to visit the Maldives next week during his four-nation Asia trips. Starting with India, where he would attend the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, he would travel to Sri Lanka before landing in Male, with Jakarta being his last stop.
The US has enjoyed an increasingly close relationship with the Maldives since the two countries established diplomatic ties over 50 years ago, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia, Dean Thompson, told reporters during a conference call.
Pompeo will be the first US Secretary of State to visit the Maldives in 16 years after the 2004 visit of the then-Secretary of State Colin Powell. In 1992, James Baker was the first Secretary of State to visit the Maldives.
In the Maldives, Pompeo will meet with President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and Foreign Minister Abdullah Shahid, who has been instrumental to the Maldives strengthened democratic institutions and civil society, Thompson said.
‘We’re also proud of our partnership with the Maldives on regional security issues and to combat terrorism. We look forward to additional opportunities to advance our relationship, including a significant milestone in the US-Maldives relationship that Secretary Pompeo will announce during his trip,’ Thompson said.
In September, the US had signed a framework for defence cooperation with the Maldives with an intent to deepen engagement and cooperation in support of maintaining peace and security in the Indian Ocean.
The ‘Framework for US Department of Defence-Maldives Ministry of Defence and Security Relationship’ was signed in Philadelphia on September 10 between Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for South and Southeast Asia, Reed Werner, and Maldivian Minister of Defence Mariya Didi.
‘The framework sets forth both countries’ intent to deepen engagement and cooperation in support of maintaining peace and security in the Indian Ocean, and marks an important step forward in the defence partnership,’ the Pentagon had said.
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