Islamabad - High Commissioner of Maldives Ahmed Saleem and his spouse Ayesha Saleem hosted a grand reception here at a local hotel on the golden jubilee (50th anniversary) of independence of the Republic of Maldives.

Federal Minister for States and Frontier Region, Lt Gen (Retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch was the chief guest. On the occasion of cake cutting ceremony, all heads of SAARC missions in Pakistan, dean of Diplomatic Corps, counsellors of Maldives in Karachi and Lahore, and head of Foreign Office South Asia Division were present on stage.

Maldives is a small country with very humble resources but the way the high commissioner celebrated the national day reflects how much Pakistan is important for Maldives, as the country has given the highest priority to Pakistan while celebrating its golden jubilee. It is routine to see the backdrop on the wall on the national day of any country but the photograph on the backdrop was fantastic and every participant praised it. The picture used in the backdrop of the stage depicted one typical Maldivian island which had the potential to be developed into hotel industry that is the main economic contribution sector, tourism, of the country.

Maldives is known for tourism and hospitality. The high commissioner served the guests in a traditional manner. The waiters were serving the guests in a typical local dress of Maldives which consists of unstitched cloth being worn on lower body, known as “Feyli” in local language. It is similar to Dhoti/Lungi worn in Pakistan. The locals wear shirts on top and wear a cloth called ‘Fusha’ (turban) to cover their head.

When the chief guest arrived at the door he was accompanied by the high commissioner and two Maldivians beating the traditional drums ‘bodu beru’ of their country which attracted everybody towards the chief guest.

Inna Lepel, the ambassador-designate of Germany, informed that the special envoy of Germany for Afghanistan-Pakistan Sabine Sparwasser would arrive Pakistan next Sunday for mutual discussion on Afghan issue and would leave on Tuesday.

A few ambassadors were waiting for the Saudi ambassador to have a group photograph as he was busy in discussion with one guest. An ambassador asked the Palestinian ambassador to interrupt the Saudi ambassador and request him for a photograph. After the photograph, the Palestinian ambassador said it is the only pride for the Palestinians for whom every Arab cares.

Canadian High Commissioner Heather Cruden is very selective while talking to others on the receptions. She takes keen interest in discussion with certain exclusive ambassadors rather talking to Pakistani participants.

Dean of Diplomatic Corps Rodolfo Martin Saravia informed that he is hosting a farewell reception for the outgoing ambassadors including Dr Rushdi Mahmood Al-Ani, Ambassador of the Republic of Iraq, Said Mohammed Hindam, Ambassador of Egypt, Adriano Chiodi Cianfarani, Ambassador of Italy, Peter Claes, Rachid Benmessaoud, Country Director World Bank Pakistan, and other dignitaries.

Lt Gen (Retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch was the first Baloch general in Pakistani Army. Earlier, he served as the corps commander of Quetta before retiring prematurely to take up the post of governor. Gen Baloch also attended the golden jubilee celebrations in Maldives one week ago as a special representative of the prime minister. Baloch made a brief speech on the reception.

He said Maldives consists of a chain of about 1,200 small coral islands and sandbanks (some 200 of which are inhabited), grouped in clusters, or atolls, in the north-central Indian Ocean. He further said that the population of the country is around 360,000 and tourism is the most important segment of their economy which constitutes 35% of their income. Baloch also said that Maldives is very popular among the Pakistani youth and many newlywed couples wish to spend the honeymoon at the beautiful resorts in Maldives. He said that Pakistan and Maldives have friendly relations and they are cooperating with each others at SAARC also.

High Commissioner of Maldives Ahmes Saleem has also served as a secretary general SAARC. He had a vast experience of running SAARC regional organization which is already 30 years old but still it has not yet started moving fast. The high commissioner said in his speech, “We are not only celebrating 50 years of independence today but also celebrating 49 years of bilateral relations with Pakistan.” He thanked the chief guest for attending the celebrations in Male as well as in Pakistan. He mentioned the state visit of President Yameen to Pakistan in May 2015 and how it has helped strengthen the ties between two countries even further. He also thanked the participants for making the event successful.

—The writer is a freelance contributor.