An ordinary social media post posted by the Indian Prime Minister has evoked controversy between India and Maldives. But what exactly is this India and Maldives controversy? Maldives is encountering a boycott from one of its most significant sources of tourism income. We will tell you about every detail of this controversy and the upcoming developments that will happen in Lakshadweep.
The social media controversy started when three of the Maldives deputy ministers made derogatory comments. The three ministers were the Ministry of Youth Affairs in Maldives, Mahzoom Majid, Maryam Shiuna, and Malsha Shareef. They commented on India and the PM’s recent visit to Lakshadweep.
How the India and Maldives Controversy Started?
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared a post of himself on a beautiful beach on social media. Following the post, the caption read, “For those who wish to embrace the adventurer in them, Lakshadweep has to be on your list.” The impressive post showcasing the beautiful Lakshadweep beach took the internet by storm.
Unknowingly, the normal post evoked the India and Maldives controversy. The main reason for this controversy lies behind the derogatory comments of three deputy ministers of Maldives. From the Ministry of Youth Affairs in Maldives, Malsha Shareef, Maryam Shuina, and Mahzoom Majid commented about Modi’s recent visit to the Lakshadweep Islands.
Additionally, through a post on Twitter, Maryam Shuina linked the connections of India to Israel. Her colleagues also made remarks. They said that the Prime Minister’s recent visit to Lakshadweep was actually planned to challenge Maldives tourism.
Mariyam Shiuna, Maldives Deputy Minister Of Youth Empowerment, Information, and Arts, wrote, “What a clown. The puppet of Israel, Mr. Narendra diver with a life jacket. #VisitMaldives #SunnySideOfLife”. She has also compared India to cow dung. However, she has now deleted the post from her social media.
What Happened After the India and Maldives Controversy?
The Indian government took the next move and talked about the issue with the Maldives. Following this, the Maldives government decided to suspend the three deputy ministers of Maldives.
In a statement, the government of Maldives clarified that the government of Maldives did not know about such derogatory remarks. They also said that such comments are actually personal opinions. Additionally, they said that the remarks do not demonstrate the views of the Maldives government.
Also, the Maldives government expressed that it believes in the freedom of expression. However, they cleared that such freedom has to be managed in a responsible way.
Maldives is Experiencing Loss After India and Maldives Controversy
One of India’s biggest travel platforms Ease My Trip suspended bookings of flights to the tourism-dependent Maldives. It happened after criticizing social media posts against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Russia and India send a considerable number of visitors to the Maldives. Maldives is a chain of beautiful islands in the Indian Ocean with many luxury resorts. According to the World Bank, tourism accounts for almost one-third of its economy.
Executive Director and Co-Founder of EaseMyTrip, Prashant Pitti, said bookings to the Maldives islands were suspended “indefinitely.” Even though Male and New Delhi have traditionally had a close connection. However, the relationship has become tense since President Mohamed Muizzu came to power by winning the election on an ‘India Out’ campaign.
Global head of marketing and vice president at the India-based travel software company, Ankit Chaturvedi, said, “We are seeing a 40% drop in bookings over the last two days.”
Chaturvedi said exact losses to the Maldives Islands are hard to estimate, but “India drove $380 million worth of tourism last year to Maldives, which is significant.”
Travel bookings to the Maldives Islands dropped a diplomatic row that exploded last week. This happened after several social media posts appeared on PM Narendra Modi’s Twitter account.
Amidst the reports of canceling trips to the Maldives, EaseMyTrip, a prominent Indian travel booking site announced that it is suspending booking of flights from India to the Maldives.
According to the daily Indian Express, some travel agents in India are recommending travelers to go to the Indian archipelago of Lakshadweep, Nicobar Islands, the Andaman Islands, or Sri Lanka instead.
What has been the Response of India and Maldives Controversy?
Amidst the Indian and Maldives controversy, the #boycottMaldives trend is growing day by day on social media platforms. The social media analysis shows the Maldives online campaign, involving #VisitMaldives and #IndiaOut virtually crushed by the mere reach and size of India’s campaign. It also revolved around the #ExploreIndianIslands and #BoycottMaldives hashtags.
A social media analytics firm, Talkwalker, has obtained some data, #BoycottMaldives was used in a lurching 2.83 lakh posts. One the other hand, #IndiaOut featured in just 7870 tweets.
Between January 2 and January 8, 1402186 people re-posted, liked, or expressed their thoughts on posts related to boycotting Maldives. Also, the engagement on the #IndiaOut trend tripped at just over 19,600.
On the other hand, the positive campaigns run by Indian users dominated the Maldivian efforts. #ExploreIndianIslands trend picked up steam on January 7 around 11 am. Also, it attracted nearly 397977 on January 8 till 1 pm.
Also, some famous Indian celebrities, business founders, and sportspersons, including Madhur Bhandarkar, Akshay Kumar, Shilpa Shetty, Varun Dhawan, and Pooja Hegde, have shown their support. Also, PV Sindhu, Bhumi Pednekar, and Snapdeal Co-founder Kunal Bahl have also shown their support towards Lakshadweep. Additionally, they said that they will include Lakshadweep in their travel bucket list.
The India-Maldives row has led many Indian tourists to cancel their holiday bookings in Maldives. Also, their screenshots are trending on Twitter. Users are also using Twitter to initiate talk about Indian Islands and beaches with #ExploreIndianIslands. Also, this hashtag is trending nowadays with the boycott Maldives trend.
India and Maldives Relationship
Maldives stands in an essential position as India’s crucial maritime neighbor within the IOR (Indian Ocean Region). It also plays an important role in Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) initiatives. Under the ‘Neighbourhood First Policy,’ it is a focal point for the Government of India’s priorities.
Last year, India was the largest source of tourists to Maldives. India had closely beaten Russia to the first position in 2023 with 209,198 tourists.
The President of Maldives, Mohamed Muizzu, made headlines soon after his inauguration ceremony in November 2023. Also, when he asked India to withdraw the military presence from the Maldives island group (archipelago).
The military presence that India has maintained is mainly aimed at providing medical support to the outlying islands of the Indian Ocean Nation. Also, during the climate summit in Dubai on December 1, President Muizzu afterward met PM Narendra Modi.
The current dispute comes ahead of President Muizzu’s visit to China and was taken up by Chinese media state outlet Global Times. It praised the president’s foreign policy. It further said, “It only demonstrates that Muizzu is treating India with a normal mindset and steering the relationship between the Maldives and India to a normal state-state relationship.”
What are the Upcoming Development Projects in Lakshadweep?
Some of the crucial infrastructure development projects lined up in Lakshadweep, including resorts, an airport upgrade, and better utility services.
- Luxury Resorts in Lakshadweep
In the next two years, IHCL (Indian Hotels Company) is going to launch two Taj-branded resorts. They will launch on the islands of Kadmat and Suheli in Lakshadweep. They made this announcement in January last year. It said, “The Greenfield projects are slated to open in 2026 and will be developed by IHCL,”
Also, for Agatti Island, Gujarat-based hospitality and tourism firm Praveg has reserved a work order. According to the company’s exchange filing made on 2023 December 20, the company will maintain, develop, operate, and manage a minimum of 50 tents at Agatti.
- New Airport Development
The Lakshadweep Island’s airport on Agatti is in for an upgrade. The Lakshadweep administration’s website has informed that the AAI (Airports Authority of India) plans to expand the existing airport.
The Indian Government is also planning to develop a new airfield at Minicoy Island. According to a source, “The plan is to have a joint airfield that would be capable of operating fighter jets, military transport planes, and commercial aircraft.” In the Arabian Sea, the airport at Minicoy Island will also give the defense forces the power to expand their area of surveillance to support civilian traffic.
- Development of the Smart City Project
As part of the ‘smart cities’ mission in India, the Ministry of Urban and Housing Affairs selected Lakshadweep’s Kavaratti as one of the development project sites in 2018.
The ongoing project anticipates key sustainable development measures for the island, according to the official website. Until now, 28 projects have been authorized at a total of over Rs 550 crore.
- Liquor Availability
The tourist department has also permitted liquor sales at chosen locations like Bangaram and Kavaratti Islands with due permission.
The India and Maldives controversy took the internet by storm and started several trends to boycott Maldives. However, the Maldives government said that the remarks made by their politicians were unknown to them. Now, the Indian government has decided to do several developments in Lakshadweep, and celebrities are also looking forward to adding Lakshadweep to their tourist bucket list.