Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared a post on Instagram with a picture of himself on a beautiful beach and a caption that read, “For those who wish to embrace the adventurer in them, Lakshadweep has to be on your list”. The beautiful post showcasing the mesmerizing beach of Lakshadweep took the internet on a storm.

The ordinary post stirred controversy between the India and Maldives. The reason for the controversy lies behind the negative comments of three deputy ministers of the Ministry of Youth Affairs in Maldives, namely Malsha Shareef, Mahzoom Majid, and Maryam Shuina about the Prime Minister’s recent visit to Lakshadweep Islands and India.

The India and Maldives relationship

Maldives holds a significant position as India’s crucial maritime neighbor within the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). It plays a special role in initiatives such as ‘SAGAR’ (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and is a focal point for the Indian government’s priorities under the ‘Neighbourhood First Policy.’

Mohamed Muizzu, the president of Maldives, made headlines soon after his swearing-in ceremony in November 2023 when he asked India to withdraw its military presence from the Maldives archipelago (island group). India has maintained that the military presence there is mainly aimed at providing medical support to the distant islands of the Indian Ocean nation. President Muizzu subsequently met PM Modi during the climate summit in Dubai on December 1.

The India and Maldives relationship

The current spat comes ahead of Muizzu’s visit to China, and was taken up by Chinese state media outlet Global Times which praised the president’s foreign policy and 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.”

The Indian government raised the issue with Maldives, after which the Maldives government suspended the three ministers. In a statement, the Maldives government said, “The Government of Maldives is aware of derogatory remarks on social media platforms against foreign leaders and high-ranking individuals. 
These opinions are personal and do not represent the views of the Government of Maldives.” The Maldives government further said that it “believes in freedom of expression but that has to be exercised in a responsible manner.”

The Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO)

MATATO also issued a statement “to dispel misinformation” that efforts to “foster Lakshwadeep island’s tourism sector has no discernible negative effect on the Maldives’ tourism industry”.

“In such development would prove complementary to Maldivian tourism, creating opportunities for both regions. The synergies between the two destinations can enhance the overall appeal for travelers and encourage more cruise liners to explore this vibrant and culturally rich region,” they said.

The association noted that the Indian market “plays a pivotal role in the success of the Maldivian tourism sector, supporting guest houses and small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that depend on the influx of Indian visitors”. They urged the stakeholders to “recognize the interconnectedness of our economies and the shared benefits that come from a harmonious relationship between the Maldives and India”.

There has been no official statement from the Indian government over the latest fracas, but there has been rising consternation over the series of steps taken by the Maldives government of President Muizzu since he took over the presidency last November.

He had successfully won the election on an electoral platform targeting the previous government of President Ibrahim Solih for fostering close ties with India. He had promised to make India withdraw its personnel posted in Maldives to operate two helicopters and a Dornier aircraft.

It was, therefore, not a surprise when the Maldives government made a formal request for their withdrawal on the second day of the Muizzu presidency.

Thereafter, Maldives also announced that it would not renew a bilateral hydrographic survey agreement that would expire this year.

Even more significantly, Muizzu not only did not choose India as his first foreign destination in contrast to his predecessors but also prioritized a visit to China instead



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