Maldives grappling with globalisation, says foreign policy expert

The Maldives is grappling with the positive and negative aspects of globalisation, says South Asia security expert Professor Stephen Cohen, formerly of the US Department of State and now senior fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

Speaking to Minivan News during a recent visit to the Maldives, Professor Cohen suggested that the Maldives faced a unique set of challenges as a generally homogenous society, relative to the ethnic and religious diversity of neighbouring countries.

“This is a state [which is coping] with the negative and positive aspects of globalisation – one aspect was the decision to become a tourist resort destination in the 70s, but then [a negative aspect] in recent years is that this has established targets for attacks such as those in Bali or Mumbai,” he said.

“The state has to protect those targets, and the Maldives is not a state with giant capability. If there is an [extreme] Islamist element in the country, is there the intelligence capability to monitor them? Can they be put in jail? Can the government anticipate and break up a plot? We won’t know until it happens.”

In the absence of such evidence, Professor Cohen suggested, a balanced policy of appeasement “I think is the only viable strategy.”

“But you have to watch out for the Afghan model, where they played both sides against the middle but eventually lost control. The Nepalese played both sides, balancing India and Pakistan, Israel and the Palestinians, America and the Chinese, but lost sight of their own domestic political process.”

The Maldives, he suggested, could successfully avoid picking a side “as long as it remains an ‘out of the way’ place – they don’t have minerals or oil, so I think they’ll get away with it.”

Nonetheless, the country’s delicate economy and the import of radical Islam meant the nation had shades of Pakistan in the 1950s-1960s, “to the degree that Maldivians are now travelling to places like Pakistan for training,” Professor Cohen said.

A debate over whether an Islamic country such as the Maldives could reconcile itself with dependence on a liquor-selling tourism industry was part of a larger modernisation dialogue happening in countries like Turkey, he said. “Can Islam be tolerant, and how can it deal with extremists in its own ranks? Can you have a modern Muslim state, compatible with the rest of the world? They are finding ways of working around it.”

The Maldives had the foreign policy advantage of having few natural resources coveted by other states, Professor Cohen noted.

“Strategically the Maldives is the soft underbelly to Sri Lanka,” he said, before adding that the reason countries were interested in the small island nation was less to do with its location and more that they did not wish it to fall into the hands of anybody else.

“Everybody wants an independent Maldives – they want to be able to send tourists, and ships. The Maldives is lucky in that it has no disagreements over oil or fish, and while the tourist islands are a delicate asset, I think [the government] understands that.”

As an aside, Professor Cohen recalled his time at the US State Department and noted US involvement in tracking suspected players in the failed 1988 coup by mercenaries linked to the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE).

“It’s a little known fact,” he said. “A passing American vessel transiting in the area picked up the escaping ship and pointed [the pursuers] towards it. I had only just left the State Department but I heard about it. It was a pivotal moment in the country’s history, and its purpose was never quite clear.”

Now, Professer Cohen said, the Maldives is challenged with balancing relations between its larger neighbours and major tourist markets such as China.

“China practices a very skillful kind of low-profile diplomacy. They seem to be able to find what a country needs the most,” Professor Cohen observed. “I’ve seen it in Pakistan – Americans are hated in Pakistan, but the Chinese are beloved. And along come the requests for favours.”

It was difficult to measure the effect of such soft power, he said.

“All you are buying is a moment of hesitation in the mind of the policy maker, when they balance the pros and cons. That’s where the influence is, and that’s where you get your money’s worth.”


24 thoughts on “Maldives grappling with globalisation, says foreign policy expert”

  1. Import of Islam everyday for the last 800 years has made this country and its people retarded, now its up to the enlightened people to bring them out their insanity!

  2. Pompous american arrogance. i mean 'are you sure you have enough jails to lock these people up?'. These thinks tanks and their ex-corporate, ex-State department, white supremacist pricks dictating American foreign policy to our faces as if we should be taking notes- we might as well have Anni chair a seat in a university and tell him to describe their policy towards negating viewpoints in the opposition. You would get a lesson in bias; one way or the other, it will come out that Gayoom was the actual architect of the '88 coup.

    Meanwhile back in the local Billabong High they are teaching kids this week about Australia- the whitewashed aryan version. How beautiful and famous its landmarks are. God forbid we should narrate the actual history of the land down under. We would then of course become extremists. Hate-mongers. sound familiar? i mean why should we, why would we want to teach our children the history of the planet as it was, if we weren't extremist Islamists. We must of course speak of madrassas when we talk of Pakistan.

    What makes these traveling white soothsayers think for a second that their 'opinions' (dictations) actually matter to us? That we should engage in an exegesis of sorts with their words following such interviews.

    Yes the Maldives is in the grip of economic and social change- the changing dynamics is determined by our demography And its distribution with relation to foreign influences, be it Bedouins or 'Brown Caucasians'. Invading hordes are either from Islamist political ideologies or they represent white supremacists parroting a distant americas foreign policies as should be the local way of life.

    To be anti-west is an intellectual necessity. It is the East that today rises; dictatorships such as Singapore now rank highest in innovation & technology. The European 'constitutional monarchies' and its Corporations in America are fighting a losing battle. Their last stronghold is to win hearts.

    Meanwhile the Capitalists way of doing business is plunging our nation into a chasm of such social disparities that the islands now look like the distant memories of Malian overlords. Economies within economies. The rich side by side the poor. The collective natural wealth of the many squandered at the feet of the very few. Within this gaping gorge flourishes an extremist hydra that rears more than just one head. Both Islamists and cans of Ameri`- wayward ganja crowds thronging by the local salvation army. The massive exodus to America is happening within Maldives- it is a baseless basest struggle that wants simply to look, talk and eat like americans without wanting to wipe their tushies with toilet papers. They are half-breeds. The Bedouins fare no better even if they don't sport american sunglasses.

  3. The Professor's observation, "If there is an [extreme] Islamist element in the country, is there the intelligence capability to monitor them? Can they be put in jail? Can the government anticipate and break up a plot? We won’t know until it happens.” is worth giving a thought. I certainly believe the local intelligence is capable and are vigilant.

  4. And god is the best of plotters ...
    sad to say that its on its revival buddy..
    i guess ull end up leaving or climbing aboard !no doubt ,,

  5. i dont buy what Cohen is saying that the Maldives shud practice a policy of appeasement..we may not hv oil or minerals for the big powers to covet us....but we are now a member of the 47 member Human Rights Council and with the General Assembly underway i am sure there are a lot of countries including the United States knocking on our door for our vote.

    I believe we can run a foreign policy based on principle and maturity and anyone who is following the Maldives foreign policy would gather this much. let me correct myself, any intelligent person that is.

    i also believe that as a small state we have a lot of room to maneouver within in diplomacy, a fact little understood by many.

    Nonetheless, i do agree about extremism posing a threat to the country. It has long been in the coming but our partisan politics will not touch the matter with a ten feet pole!

  6. Both North America and Australia became what they are by the Anglo Saxons massacring the local populations - no different from what the Arab Muslims did when they converted North Africans and even Indians to Islam. Every imperial power does it.

    The problem is Saudi Arabia needed American knowledge and technology to even pump oil.

    And Singapore maybe a dicatorship but should a Singaporean choose to believe Stephen Hawking's version of beginning of universe or Charles Darwin's version of origin of man and states that openly there will not be a mob lynching him or an Islamic Ministry asking him to give a public recanting of his statement. And that kind of environment is needed to advance scientific studies.

  7. Globalization is really what topped Gayoom, even if MDP like to take the full credit. Of-course MDPs hard work accelerated the process and deserves to be commended.

    Globalization with the easier access to international media, mobile phones, SMS, web, cheap travel, raising fundamentalism, drugs was all was too much for Gayoom to contain. It was really a 'living dead' regime in its final years.

    However the Gayoomists are still in self denial. They long for a world that is not there any more. Thus the same old crowd (those jokers running DRP and PA) still seem to think they can bring a dead horse to life...

  8. Professor, are you aware that the Maldives too once played both sides quite successfully, balancing India and Pakistan; Pakistan and a newly created Bangladesh; Israel and the Arabs, the Soviet Union and America, West Germany and the German Democratic Republic; North and South Korea; North and South Vietnam and also enquired if China could be accommodated without severing links with Taiwan.

    Woah! The venom emanating from the fingertips of Auxiliary-T is akin to what the Islamic supremacist marriage celebrant recently told that French couple. It is good we have civilising influences such as Billabong High; the more the better. When Auxiliary-T cites Singapore as a centre of technological innovation and progress could he or she cite at least one example of an Islamic country up in the same ranks?

    By the way Auxillary-T I am not one of those you have called the “ganja crowds” but I love America. I relish the idea of relieving myself without bending at the knees; cleansing myself afterwards without using water; eating the meat they eat and drinking the wine they drink; I dress the way they dress and I feel I am one of them. Anything wrong?

  9. Globalization is changing the world ever than before and Maldives is no exception to that. However we should agree that our own problems are far greater than we face in our foreign relations and as pointed it is a much safer area. The priority must be to the internal problems and it is solutions. Yes we can learn from others and their histories, we need to be more knowledgeable in many aspects let it be religion or other countries (Australia, UK or US). This is one aspect from many, yet it is important, I feel today we face this challenge as well, lack of knowledge (able to think outside of our box and alternatives) is what one might need to tackled more than ever.

  10. @Night Star
    The United States does NOT need to 'come knocking' on Maldives for any vote.. Maldives would go running after the US offering their vote free. Just feel 'important'.. Please check if you have a brain.

    And how can any country ignore its bloody interests and simply have a 'foreign policy based on principle and maturity'. Thats the most hollow collage undergraduate statement.

  11. Allowing drinking Alcohol in public, allowing Gay marriage, allowing Islamic nations to disintergrate from its own identity and culture and many more are WHAT AMERICAN OR WESTERN "WAR MACHINE" BRAINWASHED POLITICIANS AND SCHOLARS PILLARS OF DEMOCRACY AND THE BIBLE OF "CAPITALIST GOD". Why do these brainwashed extremist (secularist) believe that all the time people are fools and driven by their greed for sex and money?? Stephen Cohen we know like minds of you are holding fast to the system that was designed for capitalist to control the mass, while bleeding the society from its morality and its own shame for mere few dollars you earn for the "consultancy's for the murder's of the nations"!! Like Communism, it is certain that this form of greedy capitalism will fail if it continues!! You come to this tiny nation to preach us democracy, tolerance and peace? While you support dictators like Saudi royal family, Israel military machine, Egypt dictator, murdering/murdered millions in Afgan, Iraq, Japan, Vietnam and many more for just to protect interest of your oil money and vested interest of "few" individual groups of USA and Western nations! Moreover you have betrayed to the ordinary American citizens! Go round in USA today to see many families are in pain of losing their son or daughter either from war, or drugs or rape or killed in over consumption of alcohol or lost a family due rise in gay/lesibian!! Your society is crumbling to knee, while you are busy showing your muscles and fist to other nations and civilisation! Be humble and learn and respect other civilisations! There is fault in all civilisations and lot to learn from each other! Stop been arrogant! Learn to accomodate! Stop bulling and been bullied! Remember you plan a grand plan...but forces of nature (you call it. BUT .we call it will of God) plans are by far greater!!! You possess mil fraction or less knowledge of this universe for which you boost!! BE HUMBLE!! AND OBEY THE NATURE!!

  12. And remember we know minivan is a portal for monitoring the public perception and also monitor individual from their changing perception! And then report to the "war machine" for "necessary action"!! Minivan News has become worse machine than Haveeru news use to be!!

  13. why does every one have to puke over the slightest difference in opinion, I think minivan should filter hate messages from constructive comments.

  14. @Stillsungu

    Shouldn't minivan news stop projecting hatred for Islam and Islamic scholars? Shouldnt Minivan news stop taking a side among the stupid battle fought for the secularist elements in Maldives and in Western world?
    When ever we hear some one voicing something we cannot tolerate or diguest..we start calling them extremist!! Or to block out their voice! As though Minivan news ever was a free media!!

  15. Mullahs inspired by globalization are tightening their grip on the nation. To avoid another Somalia, Afghanistan we have to combat the extremists. Modern technology should be made available to the whole nation to deter Mullah activities.

  16. Secularist in Maldives are feeling insecure with the fall of American hegemony, thus they are preparing for all out personal attacks on all those who support moral values! Maldivians needs to be ready for these secularist who wants to create another thai girls of Maldivian girls and drunks of our youth and zombies! Beware of Secularist who are the extremist to change Maldives to there pervert heaven! You can identify these perverts,they all drink alcohol as soon as they leave Male' (either out to resorts or out of country..even in air plans), they would make sexually rude comments to young boys and girls and most of them would have "mistress"!! They would hate those who pray regularly!

  17. "COHEN" It's a famous Jeiwsh name especially among Jewish circles in America, more especially among American political lobbyists.

    I can imagine their view of Muslims!

  18. @Fathima Manike
    Its really sad to hear that from a woman(guessing from the name). Reportedly Sheikh Fareed has married an 18 year old girl. Apparently his wife number two. Fathima Manike, as we all know, mullah's are marrying young girls after indoctrinating with false promises of paradise and afterlife. There is no such thing as AFTERLIFE. Its here and its now. Its 1 life live it. God is an imaginary one.

  19. @Dawkins

    "God is an imaginary one."

    So your religion is Atheism and your God is materialism?

    Since you are trying to spread your religion, you are Mullah Dawkins!

    Prove it, Mullah Dawkins, that God does not exist.

  20. @ Mullah Dawkins

    "There is no such thing as AFTERLIFE."

    That means you don't believe in Justice, and you are an illogical person?

    Are you the kindhearted,scientific and logical Mafia boss whose occupation is robbing and you do it because you think robbing is GOOD, and no one could prove why robbing was BAD?

  21. As we can clearly see, there is a huge rift growing in maldives on religion. It doesnt mean we are all not muslims. I dont think any muslim has a right to tell another how to live thier life, nor does an aethiest. Lets let God decide who is good or bad.

    Whats alarming is the dangerous level of passion with which ppl pass judgement as though its how everyone should live, and all discussion or compromise is the work of the devil.

    Let ppl decide for them selves. For believers, have faith in God that they will be saved. But stop preaching to others.

  22. @JoJo

    If your arguments holds true (that "I dont think any muslim has a right to tell another how to live thier life, nor does an aethiest. Lets let God decide who is good or bad.") then why is Maldives constitution guiding us? why are street lights on the road? Why don't we have "FREEEE COUNTRY??" I have one simple word discribing you..."STUPID"!! Go and learn basic human history! We need some sort of social order in this world! And Islam is the solution!! You may cry, shout..abuse and what ever! But will of Allah SW will ordain in the end and you shall also taste the death! thats law of god!! mock this till u go to grave..!


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