MALE, MALDIVES — President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih of the Maldives has recently submitted a letter to the parliament, nominating an ambassador to Taiwan, also known as the Republic of China, sparking a whirlwind of confusion and controversy.
Currently, the Maldives does not officially recognize Taiwan, instead adhering to the 'One China' policy, which acknowledges only the People's Republic of China. There are no diplomatic relations between the Maldives and Taiwan, and this sudden letter appears to contradict longstanding policy.
Taiwan's diplomatic status on the world stage is a contentious issue rooted in history. The People's Republic of China and the Republic of China (Taiwan) have claimed sovereignty over each other since the Chinese Civil War's conclusion in 1949. Most nations, including the Maldives, adhere to the One China policy to maintain diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China, which doesn't allow formal ties with countries that recognize Taiwan.
The submission of such a letter, even if it is due to a typographical error, could be viewed as a major faux pas for the Maldivian government. It risks straining relations with China, the world's second-largest economy, and possibly misconstrued as an official shift in the Maldives' foreign policy. “Government of the Maldives must issue an official apology to the Chinese government,” urged an anonymous career diplomat.
Since President Solih assumed office, the Maldives has been seen to lean more towards India, a known geopolitical rival of China. No significant Chinese project has begun during Solih's administration, indicating a perceptible shift in alliances.
Under the previous administration led by President Yameen, a free trade agreement was signed between China and the Maldives. However, since taking office, Solih's government has shown reluctance in pursuing this agreement, possibly under Indian influence. The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), when in opposition, was known for its criticisms of China-Maldives relations.
It is important to note that the recent controversial letter was signed by President Solih himself. Following the uproar, government officials are attempting to mitigate the situation by claiming it was a mere typographical error. However, the incident has provoked a wave of speculation and debate on the Maldives' shifting geopolitical alliances in the region.
The full implications of this diplomatic faux pas are yet to unfold, but it will undoubtedly have repercussions in the intricate geopolitical landscape of East and South Asia.