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Sunday, February 25, 2024

Tensions Rise Between India and Maldives

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Over Tourism Promotion in Lakshadweep

Diplomatic tensions have escalated between India and the Maldives following Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the Lakshadweep islands to boost tourism. The move has sparked controversy as some in the Maldives perceive it as an attempt to divert tourists from their own archipelago, which heavily relies on tourism for its economy.

The fallout from the visit resulted in three Maldivian ministers being suspended for making derogatory comments about Modi on social media, referring to him as a “terrorist” and a “clown.” The Maldives foreign ministry clarified that these comments, later deleted, were made in a personal capacity and did not represent the official government stance.

Expressing concern over the incident, the Maldives government emphasized the need for exercising freedom of expression in a democratic and responsible manner to maintain positive relationships with international partners.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs responded by summoning the Maldivian envoy, and one of India’s major travel platforms suspended flight bookings to the Maldives. Additionally, a growing number of Indians are pledging to boycott travel to the Maldives in response to the derogatory remarks.

Tourism plays a pivotal role in the Maldivian economy, accounting for almost a third of its GDP, with the largest number of visitors coming from India and Russia. This incident has the potential to impact the Maldives’ tourism industry significantly.

Tensions between India and the Maldives have been escalating since the election of Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu in September. Muizzu, perceived to have stronger ties with China, ran an “India out” election campaign, pledging to reduce India’s influence in the archipelago. The president’s upcoming visit to China, coupled with the absence of an official visit to India, is seen by many as a diplomatic snub.

This development is likely to strain relations further between the two nations. India considers the Maldives strategically crucial in its efforts to counterbalance China’s influence in the Indian Ocean region. The situation is evolving, and observers are closely watching for further developments in this diplomatic row.

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