Leaked cable shows Maldives’ behind-the-scenes politicking in Washington

The Maldives was offered US$85,000 to assist with the “resettlement expenses” of a Guantanamo Bay inmate, sought increased access to “liberal western education” in a bid to tackle growing fundamentalism and vowed that it would “not let relations with India impact relations with the United States.”

These and other diplomatic revelations emerged yesterday with the publication of a leaked diplomatic cable detailing consultations between Washington and the Maldives’ Ambassador to the US, Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed.

Dated February 26 and stamped by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, the cable document reports on Ghafoor’s first consultation with US officials on February 23, 2010 ahead of presenting his credentials to US President Barack Obama the following day.

Assistance with UN Human Rights Council seat

According to the cable, Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake asked Ghafoor about the country’s progress towards gaining a seat on the UN Human Rights Council (which it later obtained).

In response, Ghafoor said he was confident that the Maldives could obtain one of the four Asia Group seats, as he did not believe Iran had enough Arab support. But he expressed concern that a vote split between Thailand and Maldives left the possibility open for Iran to win by “working African capitals.”

“As such, Maldives is not only lobbying Asian missions, but also African missions,” the cable stated.

Blake offered “quiet” US assistance “if it would be helpful”, however Ghafoor said that while he appreciated the offer “the Maldives needed to be seen as earning the seat in its own right.”

“As a small country, [Ghafoor] said, Maldives can’t play other countries against each other; it needs to take principled positions.”

Guantanamo Bay

The cable discusses arrangements for the transfer of a Guantanamo detainee to the Maldives and refers to an individual named ‘Fried’, presumably the Special Envoy to facilitate the closing of Guanatanamo Bay, Daniel Fried.

Information on the matter would be “kept close until we transfer the detainee”, Fried said in the cable, and referred to an offer “of US$85,000 to assist with [the detainee’s] resettlement expenses.”

“Fried stressed the importance of working out more detailed security arrangements for the detainee, along the lines of those applied in other countries that have accepted Guantanamo detainees for resettlement; Embassy Colombo could work directly with the Maldivian government on those arrangements,” the cable stated.

Vulnerability to extremism

Seeking additional US support from the US towards tackling fundamentalism, Ghafoor pressed for increased access to “liberal western education”, which he suggested would also help to combat growing fundamentalist trends.

In the leaked cable, Ghafoor explained that rising fundamentalism stemmed partly from students travelling to places such as Pakistan and Egypt for a free education in Islamic studies, and returning with extremist views. This, he said, had altered the Maldives’ traditionally peaceful and tolerant culture: “‘It used to be simply a question of faith; now you must show that you are more Muslim than others,’ he said.”

The cable also articulated the Maldivian government’s concern about the impact of an attack on an island resort, such as by Somali pirates, which Ghafoor noted “would cripple the country’s economy.”

In response, the US expressed interest in “expanding bilateral defense and security engagement, continuing training, and helping build the Maldives’ maritime security capabilities to counteract the threat from terrorism, piracy, and trafficking.”

Defence probing

Robert Scher, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia, asked Ghafoor how US military training compared with that of India “in terms of quantity and quality.”

Ghafoor avoided committing to an answer, instead stating that “both were substantive and substantial.”

“Scher indicated that the US did not want to get in the way of Maldivian relationships with its neighbors,” the cable read.

In addition, “Ghafoor assessed that [India’s] perception of the US has evolved and that Male’ would be able to address any concerns. He stated that [the Maldivian] government would not let relations with India impact relations with the United States, reflecting the Maldives’ attempt to ‘show balance’ in the past. Ghafoor replied that, if necessary, Maldives would explain that neither India nor Pakistan need suspect anything ‘untoward’.”

Climate dealing

In a meeting with Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change Jonathan Pershing, Ghafoor said that the Maldives would like to see small countries at the forefront of the climate debate “receive tangible assistance from the larger economies. Other nations would then come to realize that there are advantages to be gained by compliance.”

Ghafoor then identified several projects including harbour deepening and the strengthening of sea walls that he said would cost “approximately US$50 million.”

“Pershing encouraged Ghafoor to provide concrete examples and specific costs in order to increase the likelihood of bilateral assistance and congressional appropriations,” the cables said.

The Maldivian Ambassador also suggested that President Obama use the “dramatic backdrop” of the Maldives “to deliver a speech on climate change when he next visits the region.”

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38 thoughts on “Leaked cable shows Maldives’ behind-the-scenes politicking in Washington”

  1. While I'm not necessarily a fan of our diplomatic correspondence being open to the world, and confidential correspondence being open to the public - i can't really complain. Especially when members of our security council in the Majlis has leaked the same kind of documents (without any repercussions, I might add).

    Ghafoor, our special representative to the United Nations, seems to be doing a spectacular job. While I'm unsure as to to whether $85,000 would have been enough to rehouse a Gitmo prisoner, at least it shows that attention was being paid to keeping the individual secure and restraining him from being a threat to the Maldivian people. What i would add to this is that the US said very clearly that there is no need to go ahead with this if it became a political issue, which it later did.

    But Ghafoor refused US assistance getting a Human Rights council seat -saying that we need to stand on our own two feet. He refused to suck up to the US when talking about the Military, and continually asserted our sovereign nature and desire for a balanced relationship. His even handedness, even when being faced with the world's strongest super power must be commended.

    That he is also pushing for greater education opportunities for our populous is absolutely wonderful, regardless of the reason he gives. (a reason i might agree with, but many do not). The fact remains that the United States has over 3,000 universities of good quality willing to give scholarships to citizens of the Maldives - those who qualify and work for it. We must encourage more students to apply to these universities and open opportunity that is currently being reserved for the few and the privileged in our nation.

    I'm not talking about handouts. I'm talking about opportunity. Opening the way and creating a path for the future of our citizens.

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  2. Good job gafoor.i am realy proud of our foreign policy.thanks to shaheed and government.its unbelievably good how government handle indian and US relations.BRAVO.

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  3. Mr.Gafoor thats a job well done and i salute you for the knowledge Allah Ta'ala has bestowed upon you.Alhumdo Lillah.

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  4. I commend the maldivian gov. But I am worried about d US influence in the region.....it wants to remain a superpower foerever. It will do anything 4that.

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  5. Ghafoor has shown boldness and sternness and has that Maldives is a country with a liberal foreign policy. Well done!

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  6. I don't think there is anything sinister in this. Although this was a leaked confidential cable, the content of the cable seem to be in line with long standing government policy, including on climate change, education and our relations with India.

    In a nutshell, the cable touches upon almost all our foreign policy priorities at the moment and shows the competency of Maldivian diplomats abroad.

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  7. If these leaked cables were a shame for the Maldivian government, in any way, this story will not be on Minivan News.

    This story is here on minivan News because this story is what the government wants people to know.

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  8. Ghafoor came through as a seasoned diplomat doing an excellent job. Thanks Anni for his appointment. It is so sad to hear that Foreign Minister Shaheed has been trying to make life so difficult for Ghafoor to force him to quit.

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  9. Great job Ghafoor, please do your part to keep Maldives as a safe place.

    I would really like to see, Ghafoor doing his role to convince our president to talk to the US president to convince to give visa free for Maldivian's who want to travel to US for business or holiday, as we do for all nationalities. Why we have to spend months in Colombo to get a visa by going through so much process.

    Anyone who want to support "Visa On Arrival for Maldivians" can join Facebook group, http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=126818104011383 and contribute.

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  10. One important thing we came to know is the diplomats we have placed in far away parts of the world is really worthy. That is money well spent. These leaks also demonstrated that we have attained diplomatic maturity.

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  11. @Omar

    Lets not get carried away here, foreign policy is determined by the President, and executed by the Foreign Minister through his cadre of diplomats. I think Dr. Shaheed deserves a lot of credit.

    Ambassadors act on the strict direction and guidance from the Foreign Minister. Ambassadors seldom act on their own in any country's foreign service, as we found out in the past few days.

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  12. Hats off to President Nasheed, his foreign minister Dr Shaheed and Ambassador Abdul Ghafoor. This really shows that we are an assertive bunch of people that do not succumb in front of the world's greatest powers!Well done!

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  13. hehe....Minivannews took the only positive document among the leaked documents and posted it on the front page.

    well done minivannews.

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  14. This is the great.

    Down with extremism.

    yes I am intolerant. I will always be intolerant, to extremism.

    Dont let any maldivian, ever go to Pakistan or to any arabian puppet countries.

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  15. I didn't know Ghafoor was this good at his job.
    There is more to come on Wikileaks, but atleast the first batch seems to show that Maldives is able to stand up as a sovereign nation and is not trying to lap up to America.

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  16. @Abdulla Naeem - Think you are getting carried away yourself. I was not talking about how policy is made and carried out. I was just mentioning that the talk in town is that Dr Shaheed has been making life hell for Ghafoor for quite sometime now.

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  17. Oh for gods sake our present foreign policy with respect to India and America is the same as that under Gayoom. So there is no reason to praise Nasheed and Dr Shaheed over what Ghafoor said. If anyone needs praising it is Ghafoor for the way in which he handled the questions.

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  18. @Omar

    If Dr Shaheed is whipping up his ambassadors to get these kind of results, I think he's doing a good a job. Don't you? With all the amenities and privileges Maldivian ambassadors get these days, I hardly think that 'hell' would be the best word to describe it.

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  19. @ Omar. I agree with you. I have also heard that Dr Shaheed has refused to give a pay raise for 2011 that will enable Ghafoor to keep his 4-bedroom penthouse apartment in Times Square in New York. The gossip is that Dr Shaheed is saying that there are Ambassadors from richer countries living on 3,000 dollar a month apartments while Ghafoor's apartment costs 7,000 dollars a month. Dr Shaheed should not be so stingy. He is also refusing to give a maid to Ghafoor's wife while he is providing a maid for Dr Farahanaz Faizal!! What double-standards! I hope Naseem will intervene to help out Ghafoor and Khalida. Ambassadors cannot live like college students!

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  20. The Ghafoor cable shows that even at the best of times, wikileaks can cause a lot of damage to international friendships! I have a feeling that New Delhi will not feel too impressed by Maldives attitudes towards India.... Anni must quickly tell Indians that the cable was misquoting Ghafoor. I would be surprised if he hasn't done that already!

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  21. Hey Ali you sound like a comical figure in one of these cartoons.there is no such thing as extremism in islam.this is a term copied from the western media by many puppets like you.you're refering to people who practice islam while calling themselves muslims.Praying five times, fasting ,observing the dress code and living as a muslim should perturbed you.try smashing down all the mosques or gunning down all those who wear islamic attaire.I bet all you can do is piss in your pants.

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  22. Oh Laali, stop sprouting these codified denial statements from extremist handbooks.
    We are all dead bored of it, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
    Having lived abroad before, i can vouch for the fact that western media or Europeans don't go around calling me extremist just because i am a Muslim.

    Might have to do with the fact that i don't go about preaching hatred, or don't live in a black tent while dying to kill every infidel in sight.

    Oh you should try going out to these western countries, there are Muslims living there and Mosques where you can actually go and pray in peace.

    Travel a bit more and you might be able to join the real world, instead of living through extremist handbooks.

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  23. please all, all Ambassadors seek direction and use talking points provided for them from the capital....something that the Wikileaks has really revealed.

    Ghafoor is not the best of the lot, he was just following the talking points.Hes in retirement since he was in Malaysia and still complain about the "hard life" his family goes through. noone in the field of diplomacy can come up with an initiative that was spearheaded by Ghafoor in the past decade! i will salute anyone who can! All he does in America is scheme of ways of getting rid of Dr. Shaheed.

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  24. @ Leena

    "Having lived abroad before, i can vouch for the fact that western media or Europeans don’t go around calling me extremist just because i am a Muslim"

    Now that's interesting!

    Did you by any chance allow them to identify you as a Muslim?

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  25. Why do these cables always leak?

    Don't they get buried properly?

    Can you imagine living in these countries with an ever increasing chance of getting electrocuted!

    And they call them, the happiest nations of earth - what? With leaked cables?

    Fire the president of their Municipality!

    He was not doing a good job it seems - with all those leaked cables.

    Always up to some mischief.

    Imagine the result of people like these getting elected as Mayor of a city?

    The moment you step outside your house - you are embroiled in a leaked cable!

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  26. Ghafoor is an excellent diplomat. We should be proud to have such people in our foreign service.

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  27. Talking about the tolerance in the west, just about an year back Marwa El Sherbini was stabbed 18 times by an ethnic germanAlex Weins against whom she had testified in a criminal case for verbal abusebecause of her observance of head scarf. The judge stated that perpetrator was motivated by hostility and prejudice against a race and religion. Is this the tolerance you talk about?

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  28. "Talking about the tolerance in the west, just about an year back Marwa El Sherbini was stabbed 18 times by an ethnic germanAlex Weins against whom she had testified in a criminal case for verbal abusebecause of her observance of head scarf."

    Kanbulo...my God! Stabbed 18 times for just testifying?

    Yeah! Very tolerant West, I should say.

    Western misogyny or Islamophobia?

    Imagine what an international headline it will be if something like that happens in a Muslim country?

    It will be on the main HEADLINES of major news corporations of the West for at least two weeks!

    Then what are these Atheist/Secularists 'veedhening" about?

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  29. @Laali on Mon, 6th Dec 2010 11:45 PM

    I dont even want to hear what you think. And if you really want to open your mouth, first become a non-muslim, cos as long as you are a muslim, as per the 'educated' you need to be in a letter box pecking at your husbands feet.

    Good for the ambassador. eradicate the arabian influence from the Maldives.

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  30. With Foreign Minister Doc Shaheed's fall now imminent, Ghafoor seems to be a very good candidate for the job. He is a seasoned diplomat. This is the kind of people we should be appointing as ambassadors. High time Anni get rid of the barely literate ambassadors such as Adam hassan and Nazaki he has appointed as ambassadors. A seaman or a businessman cannot become a good diplomat overnight!

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  31. When I went into MDP office in 2007 I think (before the elections etc...) this guy Ghafoor was extremely kind to me, helpful, understanding, caring and was working damned hard at the project MDP were working on at the time. Anytime I needed help to understand Maldivian culture, politics he just went to the ends of the earth to promote the beauty of everything Maldivian. It was evident to me he was GENUINE! So, I wonder, if this is true, if Dr. Shaheed is pulling him down, it is not because he is not competent, what is the real reason?

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  32. Oh, wait on, I was talking about the guy who was general secretary of MDP at the time, have I got my ppl mixed up or is it the same Ghafoor? No I am sure its the same guy?

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  33. The general secretary of MDP that I met offered an extremely deep explanation of political strategy needed in Maldives culture to promote democracy, the guy I met was smart enough to have been one of my lecturers, he would be a wonderful diplomat. Could someone please tell me, is it the same guy here?

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  34. Oh no, I had the wrong guy, my friend Abdul-Ghafoor was Hamid Abdul-Ghafoor, SORRY GUYS MY MISTAKE i had the two mixed up

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