Small states in the eastern hemisphere are at risk of being dragged into the orbit of either China or India, a former Asian president said Friday.
But Mohamed Waheed Hassan, who led the Maldives in 2012 and 2013, added that there's an area the region's superpowers and its smaller nations could easily work together on.
"Emerging markets are caught between big powers," he told CNBC. "All small states, whether they are developed or underdeveloped, are going through this experience," he said, citing Singapore and Sri Lanka as fellow Asian nations facing the same challenge of appeasing both their Chinese and Indian neighbors.
But, according to Waheed, an area that all countries could collaborate on is security.
The Maldives has traditionally relied on India, and by proxy its historical ally the U.S., for regional security. However, "if China can contribute to that kind of collective security arrangement it should be welcome," Waheed said. "Why would they have separate exercises?"