Why are Indians boycotting Maldives over PM Modi’s beach trip?

South Asia World

Social media is one of the major birthplaces of controversy because of its ability to promptly spread information worldwide where one picture could create chaos across nations especially if it is shared by a prominent figure.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently posted pictures of himself on X, formerly known as Twitter, snorkelling and walking along a beach in Lakshadweep, a southern Indian island chain.

While he praised the Indian island’s beauty, three Maldives officials mocked Modi for intentions to attract tourists to the lesser-known archipelago rather than the Maldives, CNN reported.

The officials responded to Modi’s post, describing him as a “clown,” “terrorist” and a “puppet of Israel,” according to Reuters, although there was no mention of Maldives in his post.

A senior Maldives official told Reuters that the island’s government moved quickly to distance itself from their comments, suspending the three officials — deputy ministers with the Ministry of Youth Employment, Information and Arts.

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.

The controversy comes as Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu — known for his pro-China stance — embarks on a five-day visit to China, marking his first visit as president after winning the election.

Muizzu, who has pledged to end his predecessor’s “India first” policy, is expected to meet with Chinese officials and sign agreements to enhance trade, professional, and socioeconomic development during a trip.

However, the Indian Ocean archipelago, home to around half a million people, cannot afford to alienate its closest neighbour.

The Maldives heavily relies on tourism, with India bringing the largest group of tourists. In 2023, Indian tourists made over 209,000 trips to the island, accounting for 11% of its tourism market.

However, the officials’ comments have angered some Indian holidaymakers, who have cancelled their trips to the island chain using the hashtag “#BoycottMaldives”.

In a post on X, Maldives Foreign Minister Moosa Zameer called the officials’ remarks “unacceptable,” adding that the archipelago is committed to “fostering a positive and constructive dialogue with our partners.”

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