By Shahana Naqvi, Edited By Adam Rizvi, The India Observer: New Year kickstarted with a fresh controversy, this time diplomatic row between the tropical island nation of Maldives with the Indian government.
It all started when the Indian Prime minister Mr. Narendra Modi uploaded a gallery of images of the sun kissed island of Lakshadeep, located on the Indian Ocean 300 km off the coast of Kerala on X (formerly Twitter),on Thursday 4th January from his 2 day trip to the Union Territory.
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He pitched the destination as a, “must visit for adventure lovers”, soon social media responded with comments comparing it’s beauty to another popular tourist destination of Maldives also located in the precincts of the Indian Ocean, three Maldivian officials (deputy ministers with the Ministry of Youth) responded to his post describing the Indian Prime Minister in derogatory remarks which sparked controversy and stoked diplomatic tensions between the two countries.
The Maldivian government moved quickly to distance itself from their comments , suspending the three officials on Sunday. It issued a statement saying, “The government believes that freedom of expression should be exercised in a democratic and responsible manner and in ways that do not spread hatred, negative and hinder close relationship between Maldives and it’s international partners”.
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This incident erupted at a critical time as Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu embarks on a 5 day visit to China, his first as President following his election win last October.
With tourism been it’s biggest GDP earner contributing to earning nearly 25 percent of it’s annual revenue, the little island nation cannot afford to alienate it’s closest neighbour.
According to the Maldivian Tourism Ministry over 2 lakhs Indians visited Maldives annually over last 3 years, the highest from any country post-Covid 19.
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The wave of #boycott Maldives trend on social media can be a matter of grave concern for the Maldivian government which could result in serious revenue loss for them.
LOCAL PE VOCAL
Travel portals reported a massive surge in search for idyllic Indian destinations like Lakshadweep and Andamans by potential holiday seekers .Although Lakshadweep islands do not have the infrastructure to host a large number of tourists.
Many prominent figures have reported to have urged Indian hotel companies to invest in Lakshadweep for better returns. Mega star Amitabh Bachchan vouched for the pristine beauty of the Lakshadweep along with cricketer Virendra Sehwag on social networking site X.
Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) issued an appeal to boycott Maldives while travel portal Ease my Trip said it suspended all flights booking to the island nation in solidarity with India. STC Travels stopped selling Maldivian packages and tickets.
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New Delhi summoned Maldivian envoy to India to the External affairs Ministry regarding the controversial statements by the deputy ministers. Many celebrities have joined the trend urging people to explore domestic tourist destination for holidays and vacations instead of going to the Maldives. Some trolled actress Bipasha Basu for holidaying in Maldives on January 7th to ring in her 45th birthday while many Indians continue to cancel their scheduled Maldivian holiday bookings in wake of the row.
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The escalated tensions seem far from ending with Maldives requesting China to send tourists to the island nation to cover up the loss from Indian boycott.
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Curated and Compiled by Humra Kidwai
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