During President Nasheed's current visit to Sri Lanka he will be renewing a relation that is as old as Maldives itself. According to the generally accepted hypothesis on the origin of human settlement in the Maldives, it was a Sri Lankan prince who brought the first pioneers to the archipelago.
Maldivians and Sri Lankans share close ethnic and linguistic features reflecting their common ancestry. Sinhala and Dhivehi are closely related cousins, both belonging to the Indo Aryan family of languages, in contrast to the Dravidian family of languages prevalent in South India. Before the Maldives embraced Islam in 1150 CE, the two countries also shared Buddhism as the common religion.
The two countries have been exemplary neighbors throughout their long history. Despite the close proximity Sri Lanka has never attempted to invade the Maldives unlike the Malabaris of South India. This perhaps reflects the peaceful nature of the Sinhala culture.
Over most of the past century Sri was the gateway to the Maldives and the Maldives representative in Colombo was responsible for external relations and trade. Sri Lanka was also the market for Maldives' main export product –Maldive fish.
Bilateral relations further strengthened when in 1960 Sri Lankan teachers laid the foundation of modern education in the Maldives. Today the relations circle more round business with Sri Lankan developers investing heavily in Maldivian resorts.
Over the next few days, President Nasheed will be meeting Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse and holding official talks with the President and Sri Lankan officials. The President and First Lady will be officially welcomed in Colombo and President Rajapakse will hold a State Banquet in honor of the President. President Rajapakse visited Maldives and attended President Nasheed's inauguration on 11 November 2008.
Sri Lanka is the favorite country for a large number of Maldivian students for schooling and higher education. A large number of Maldivians also visit Sri Lanka to receive medical treatment from its renowned hospitals. For many Maldivians Sri Lanka is truly a home away from home.