Foreign Minister of Maldives, Abdulla Shahid, has been elected as the President of the 76th United Nations General Assembly (PGA) with an overwhelming majority.External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in his congratulatory tweet to the newly elected UNGA President said that “This is a testimony as much to his own stature as to the standing of Maldives. We look forward to working with him to strengthen multilateralism and its much needed reforms.”
The UNGA presidency is annual in term and held on a rotational basis every year amongst various regional groupings. The 76th session (2021-22) was the turn of the Asia-Pacific group. Maldives had announced FM Shahid’s candidature in December 2018. At that time, no other candidate was in the fray.
India announced its support for FM Shahid during the visit of the Foreign Secretary to the Maldives in November 2020. However few months down the line former Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul also entered the fray. Rassoul announced his intentions in mid-January 2021, in a surprising development and with less than 6 months before the elections.
Sources said that India’s decision to support FM Shahid was based on the fact that by the time the Afghan leader’s candidature was announced, Shahid had already garnered extensive support. Also, India had already committed its support to the Maldivian Foreign Minister. Moreover, Maldives has never held the office of PGA, while Afghanistan has held this post during the 21st GA session in 1966-67.
“Both Maldives and Afghanistan have excellent relations with India, and both candidates are friends of India. However, since India had already committed its support to the Maldives at a time when no other candidate was in the fray, India voted in favour of Maldives,” said a source.