The National:

This is the first installment in our new Independence is Normal series, which will be exploring independence worldwide and what lessons can be learned for the Yes movement in Scotland. 

THE Maldives became independent exactly 58 years ago today.

It was July 26, 1965. The island nation – known for its 1192 islands, pristine beaches, crystal-clear lagoons and resplendent coral reefs – had spent 77 years as a British protectorate.

An agreement was signed by prime minister Ibrahim Nasir on one side and British ambassador Michael Walker on behalf of then Queen Elizabeth on the other – reestablishing the country’s full sovereignty and political independence.

The National:

Independence Day in the Maldives is a public holiday, with its citizens gathering today for parades, cultural programs and shows — particularly in the Republic Square in the capital Male.

But how did they get there?

The Maldives lost its independence in 1887 when Sultan Muhammad Mueenuddeen II signed a treaty with the British Governor to Ceylon, Arthur Charles Hamilton-Gordon.

It wasn’t without context.

In the late 1800s, foreign trade in the Maldives was dominated by Borah traders from India. And when the local population revolted against them, the British Empire got involved since the Borahs were subjects at the time – leading to a growing British political presence and pressure in the Maldives.

The 1887 agreement signed over the Maldives’ sovereignty in matters of foreign policy, turning the Maldives into a British protected state, although they retained internal self-government. The British also promised military protection in exchange for an annual tribute to the crown.

The British maintained a presence on the Maldives in the decades that folllowed, particularly during the Second World War, and established RAF Gan, a Royal Air Force station on Gan island, which is part of the larger groups of islands which form the Maldives.

While many individuals will have played a role in the Maldives’ independence movement, it is Ibrahim Nasir who is considered by many as the independence hero of the Maldives.

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Nasir – who became the country’s prime minister in 1958 at just 31-years-old – is known for helping to develop the country's industrial sector.

But it was two key events in the early 1960s which heralded the Maldives’ independence according to historian Mohamed Shathir – the brutal suppression of a revolt in the south of the country, which led to criticism of Nasir, and the expulsion of the Borah traders from Male.

Reunifying the country and reclaiming control over the economy from the Borah’s showed the Maldives had “the courage to secure full independence,” Shathir told the Maldives Independent.

He added: “National spirit and unity was very strong then. It’s notable that everyone was united and came together.

“So that makes it easier for rulers. If there were big divisions over it in the country, it couldn’t have been done.”

The public also staged protests against the British before the agreement of July 26, 1965 was signed and the Maldives secured its full independence.

Within two months, the island nation was a member of the United Nations. And in 1968, a national referendum was held to decide whether the Maldives should continue as a constitutional monarchy or become a republic.

Some 81.23% of those taking part voted in favour of establishing a republic, ending the 853-year-old monarchy, and Ibrahim Nasir became the country’s first president.

Lesson for Scottish independence: While the context is very different – as the Maldives gained independence within the context of decolonisation – Shathir’s assertion that national spirit, unity and courage was key to securing independence also holds true for the indy movement in Scotland.