Lakshadweep vs Maldives: Why is the Internet Mad at Maldives?

The recent developments in the diplomatic relations of India and Maldives have taken a unique turn with Indians left furious.

PM Narendra Modi in Lakshadweep

What Really Happened?

On January 2, PM Modi visited the Union Territory Lakshadweep and shared several pictures, including an 'exhilarating experience' of him trying his hand at snorkelling. In a series of posts on X, PM Modi shared pictures of the white beaches, the pristine blue skies and the ocean and tagged them with a message that read, "For those who wish to embrace the adventurer in them, Lakshadweep has to be on your list."

In a post that has now been deleted, the Maldivian Deputy Minister of Youth Empowerment, Shiuna, made a mocking and disrespectful reference to PM Modi.

Tweet 1

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Zahid Rameez, who is a member of the Progressive Party of Maldives Senate reportedly took a dig at India, saying that the "idea of competing with us is delusional." He said his "sentiments were expressed in the context of growing Indian influence in" Maldives political affairs. Abdulla Mahzoom Majid said he wished success for India's tourism, but added that "targeting the Maldives so explicitly isn't diplomatic."

Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu who is in China, to strengthen bilateral ties with Beijing. Muizzu, who is regarded as “pro-China", skipped a visit to India and visited China, unlike his predecessors. On Monday, China's state media Global Times, in an editorial, mentioned Muizzu's visit to the East Asian Nation, and referred to India's diplomatic row with the Maldives, and called for an "open-minded" approach to looking at South Asian issues.

Indian Travellers React to the India-Maldives Row

Indian tourists made more than 209,000 trips to Maldives in 2023, making up 11% of its tourism market, statistics released last week show. Russia contributed about the same amount, and China wasn’t far behind, providing 187,118 visits, or 10% of the total.

Maldives

But the officials’ remarks angered some Indian holidaymakers, who posted screenshots on social media to show they had canceled their trips to the island chain under the hashtag #BoycottMaldives. Prominent figures, from Bollywood actors to cricket players, also urged fans to turn to local destinations instead, with another hashtag #ChaloLakshadweep – meaning “Let’s go to Lakshadweep,” where Modi visited – gaining traction.

Among them was Bollywood star Akshay Kumar, known for playing the lead in movies with a patriotic theme. He called the Maldivian officials’ remarks “hateful and racist.” “We are good to our neighbors but why should we tolerate such unprovoked hate? I’ve visited the Maldives many times and always praised it, but dignity first. Let us decide to #ExploreIndianIslands and support our own tourism,” he said.

Indian travel site EaseMyTrip said on Monday it had suspended bookings for flights to Maldives. “In solidarity with our nation, @EaseMyTrip has suspended all Maldives flight bookings,” Nishant Pitti, CEO and co-founder of EaseMyTrip said in a post on X.

Maldives Reacts

According to Maldivian media reports, deputy ministers in the youth ministry Malsha Shareef, Mariyam Shiuna and Abdulla Mahzoom Majid have been suspended over their posts. Earlier on Sunday, the Maldivian government also distanced itself from Minister Mariyam Shiuna's derogatory remarks, saying her opinion does not reflect the government's views.

The Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) has also come in support of India and ‘strongly condemned’ the derogatory remarks made by the ministers on PM Modi's post on Lakshadweep.

It also stated that India has been a consistent and significant contributor to the Tourism Industry of Maldives which has greatly assisted its recovery efforts during COVID-19.

“Since then, India has continued to remain as one of the top markets for the Maldives. It is our sincere wish that the close relationship between our two nations endures for generations to come and as such, we refrain from actions or speech that may have any negative impact on our good relationship," MATI said.

Former Maldives Defence Minister Mariya Ahmed Didi also said that derogatory comments against PM Modi demonstrate the "short-sightedness" of the Maldives government, adding that India has been a reliable ally, providing assistance in various sectors, including defense, and criticized any attempt to undermine the longstanding relationship.

The Maldives government moved quickly to distance itself from their comments, suspending the three officials - deputy ministers with the Ministry of Youth Employment, Information and Arts - a senior Maldives official told Reuters on Sunday. In a statement, the Maldives government said it was aware of “derogatory” comments made on social media but stressed the “opinions are personal” and do not represent its views.“The government believes that the freedom of expression should be exercised in a democratic and responsible manner, and in ways that do not spread hatred, negativity, and hinder close relationships between the Maldives and its international partners,” it said.

Indian Tourists Shift towards Lakshadweep

Following EaseMyTrip's decision, another travel company MakeMyTrip claimed it observed a 3,400 per cent increase in on-platform searches for Lakshadweep ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the islands. This came as "#LakshadweepTourism" trended on X on Monday evening.

Lakshadweep

"We have observed a 3400 per cent increase in on-platform searches for Lakshadweep ever since Honorable PM's visit. This interest in Indian beaches has inspired us to launch a 'Beaches of India' campaign on the platform with offers and discounts to encourage Indian travellers to explore country's stunning beaches. Keep watching this space!," MakeMyTrip said in a post on social media platform X.

Developments at Lakshadweep

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit, Lakshadweep topped the Google trends in India for two days. This sparked speculations that Indians might be looking at the country's smallest Union Territory as their next tourist destination.

The Indian government is progressing with the initiative to construct a new airport at Minicoy Island in Lakshadweep. The proposed airport would accommodate both military and civilian aircraft.

The plan entails a dual-purpose airfield capable of operating fighter jets, other military planes, and commercial aircraft, according to government sources who told India Today. Previously, proposals for the development of a new airfield in Minicoy Island were submitted to the government. The proposal, now revived, has been presented to the government again, with the intention of joint usage.

Lakshadweep

Tata Group plans to inaugurate two resorts in 2026 on the islands of Suheli and Kadmat in Lakshadweep. In January of the previous year, the Indian Hotels Company, a Tata Group subsidiary, announced the signing of two Taj-branded resorts in Lakshadweep. The company stated that these Greenfield projects are set to open in 2026 and will be developed by IHCL.

PM Modi recently highlighted Lakshadweep as a potential tourist destination, sharing pictures of the stunning islands. The images sparked a wave of interest among Indians, with many comparing its scenic beauty to that of the Maldives. The conversation soon evolved towards the infrastructure of Lakshadweep, as potential visitors began to question if the archipelago has sufficient hotels and resorts to cater to an expected surge in tourist numbers.

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