Cablegate: Maldives Ambassador's Washington Consultations
PP RUEHAG RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHLH RUEHNEH RUEHPW RUEHROV RUEHSL
DE RUEHC #8437/01 0572246
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 262241Z FEB 10
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO PRIORITY 6789
INFO EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 3218
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 6612
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA PRIORITY 2886
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY 6767
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU PRIORITY 4427
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 9528
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 2499
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI PRIORITY 0169
RUEHNEH/AMCONSUL HYDERABAD PRIORITY 0203
RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI PRIORITY 7618
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL KOLKATA PRIORITY 3568
RUEHLH/AMCONSUL LAHORE PRIORITY 8840
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI PRIORITY 3260
RUEHPW/AMCONSUL PESHAWAR PRIORITY 3444
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 0551
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0125
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 STATE 018437
E.O. 12958 DECL: 02/24/2020
TAGS PREL, PGOV, PTER, PHUM, EAID, ECON, EFIN, ELAB, MARR, MASS,
OEXC, OFDP, PINS, SCUL, SENV, SNAR, IMF, UN, KGHG, KDRG, MV
SUBJECT: MALDIVES AMBASSADOR’S WASHINGTON CONSULTATIONS
Classified By: SCA A/S Robert O. Blake, Jr. reasons 1.4 (b,d)
1. (S) SUMMARY. Maldives Ambassador-designate (resident in New York) Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed held his first consultations in Washington February 23, ahead of his presentation of credentials to POTUS February 24. Meeting with SCA, S/SECC, S/GC, and OSD, Ghafoor said he would prioritize developing education and parliamentary exchanges during his ambassadorship; expressed confidence that Maldives would win a seat on the UN Human Rights Council; confirmed his government’s willingness to take a Guantanamo detainee; underscored the importance of tangible assistance being provided by the larger economies to small countries at the forefront of the climate change debate; and expressed appreciation for U.S. training of Maldives security personnel. He also noted his government’s interest in additional training and assistance with customs and border security and prison management. END SUMMARY.
Confident on UNHRC; Keen on Educational Partnerships
2. (C) Pre-viewing Ambassador Ghafoor’s meetings with Deputy S/SECC Pershing and S/GC Ambassador Fried, SCA A/S Robert Blake expressed appreciation to Ghafoor for Maldives’s willingness to accept a Guantanamo detainee, and President Nasheed’s strong personal effort in Copenhagen to reach an Accord. Blake also pulsed Ghafoor on Maldives’s candidacy for the Human Rights Council. Ghafoor said he was confident Maldives could get one of the four Asia Group seats; he did not think Iran, lacking Arab support, had the votes. His only concern was that Thailand and Maldives could split their votes and that Iran is working African capitals. As such, Maldives is not only lobbying Asian missions, but also African missions. Blake offered quiet U.S. assistance if it would be helpful; Ghafoor appreciated it and said Maldives might take us up on it. But Maldives needed to be seen as earning the seat in its own right. As a small country, he said, Maldives can’t play other countries against each other; it needs to take principled positions (e.g. Kosovo recognition).
3. (SBU) Ghafoor appreciated U.S. efforts to help push the IMF and Maldives toward agreement, but that the conditionality was “harsh.” Wage cuts have been politically difficult. Referring to the March 28-29 Maldives donors conference, Ghafoor said international assistance would help the government win over the public and implement its development program. Ghafoor said that promoting educational exchanges and partnerships between the U.S. and Maldives would offer an alternative to students who currently go to Islamic schools in Pakistan and Egypt, where they could become radicalized. A/S Blake suggested Ghafoor reach out to U.S. schools and offered assistance to help build public-private partnerships, such as, for example, a college in the hotel and restaurant management field. Ghafoor was also keen to pursue parliamentary exchanges and to receive CODELs in Maldives, as well as to promote a U.S.-Maldives caucus or friendship association in Congress. We suggested he reach out to National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute, and that we would help arrange meetings for him with Congressional staff.
Ready to Assist with Detainee
4. (S) S/GC Ambassador Daniel Fried conveyed U.S. appreciation for Maldives’s willingness to resettle a
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Guantanamo detainee. Ghafoor said Maldives is ready to act quickly on the resettlement. Logistics remain to be worked out between the Home Ministry and the Embassy. Fried detailed those logistics, including finalizing transfer arrangements, concluding an exchange of diplomatic notes (that would include security measures), and requiring GORM permission to notify the candidate. Fried said we would keep the information close hold until we transferred the detainee; noted the offer of $85,000 to assist his resettlement expenses; and offered to make himself available for interviews should the GORM want help shaping any press messaging. 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.
Climate Change: Maldives Seeks Concrete Action
5. (SBU) Meeting with Deputy S/SECC Jonathan Pershing, Ghafoor referred to Copenhagen as a stepping stone toward a legally binding agreement; Maldives is prepared to accept any form of treaty/accord that would lead to concrete action. He said he saw a reluctance within the United States Congress to take action. He would like Maldivian President Nasheed to have the opportunity to speak before Congress in order to provide a sincere voice for the urgency of climate change. Pershing asked if Ghafoor had a sense of why only 105 of 192 countries had associated themselves with the Accord. Ghafoor replied that, following the commitments of the U.S., China and India at Copenhagen, and despite opposition from a small, vocal minority of countries, there had been a political shift; many countries from CARICOM, the African Union (led by Ethiopia), and AOSIS will come to associate with Copenhagen and engage on subsequent agreements. These coalitions must be coaxed and not pushed into making decisions and meeting deadlines. Pershing noted that chairmanship of organizational meetings was vital.
6. (SBU) Ghafoor added that Maldives would like to see that small countries, like Maldives, that are 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. Pershing noted that Copenhagen provides a generic framework for assistance, but that the next steps are procedural. He asked about Maldivian adaptation programs. Ghafoor referred to several projects, including harbor deepening and strengthening sea walls, that are in the development stage. These projects would cost approximately $50 million. Pershing encouraged Ghafoor to provide concrete examples and specific costs in order to increase the likelihood of bilateral assistance and congressional appropriations. Ghafoor proposed that President Obama deliver a speech on climate change from Maldives when he next visits the region. He said Maldives would provide a dramatic backdrop and draw further attention to environmental challenges the islands face.
Strengthening Security Cooperation
7. (SBU) Meeting with Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defense for South and Southeast Asia Robert Scher, Ghafoor expressed appreciation for the warm reception he had been receiving in Washington. He said that Maldivian soldiers and police (many now senior staff officials) that were trained by the U.S. have earned the respect of both the government and the citizens of Maldives. (NOTE: Ghafoor’s brother is a retired director of the Maldivian National Defense Force. END NOTE.) He said he looked forward to continued cooperation in this field. Scher asked how U.S. training
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compared with that of India in terms of quantity and quality. Ghafoor said that both were substantive and substantial. He acknowledged that Maldives also interacts with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, as one might expect of a 100 percent Muslim country situated in the region. Scher indicated that the U.S. did not want to get in the way of Maldivian relationships with its neighbors. Ghafoor assessed that New Delhi’s perception of the U.S. has evolved and that Male would be able to address any concerns. He stated that his government would not let relations with India impact relations with the United States, reflecting Maldives’s attempt to “show balance” in the past. Ghafoor replied that, if necessary, Maldives would explain that neither India nor Pakistan need suspect anything “untoward.” Ghafoor also noted that young people can receive free education (in Islamic Studies) in Egypt and Pakistan. Scher asked if all of the students return to Maldives after their studies. Ghafoor said that some had been apprehended in round ups in Pakistan, where they had been recruited by extremists. He said he believed that such exposure led to a rise in fundamentalist views within Maldives’s 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. Increased access to liberal western education would help to combat growing fundamentalist trends, he suggested. Scher pointed out that that some groups would hope to exploit this lack of education, and that it was good to hear that Maldivian authorities were actively monitoring the situation. Ghafoor acknowledged that human rights must allow for freedom of expression and said Maldives is looking for guidance on how to peaceably marry two often conflicting agendas, freedom and internal security. Scher replied that hatred is better faced head-on by a benevolent government rather than pushed underground. 8. (SBU) Ghafoor noted that drug use in Maldives has led to a rise in crime that President Nasheed has pledged to combat with prevention and rehabilitation. In the past, criminals were simply “banished” to a different island. He inquired about training assistance with management of prison facilities and the training of correctional officers. Scher pointed out that this would be a matter better addressed by State/INL, DOJ and USAID. Ghafoor noted that 99 percent of Maldives is extremely vulnerable to attack from the sea. More specifically, he said that an attack (such as by Somali pirates) on an island resort would cripple the country’s economy. Maldives is seeking additional equipment and training from the U.S. on customs and border security. Scher expressed DOD’s interest in expanding bilateral defense and security engagement, continuing training, and helping build the Maldives’s maritime security capabilities to counteract the threat from terrorism, piracy, and trafficking. CLINTON