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February 21, 2024

Diplomatic Row Erupts After Indian PM’s Lakshadweep Visit

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Jan 9, 2024

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to the Lakshadweep islands has sparked a diplomatic controversy between India and the nearby Maldives archipelago. The row began after Maldivian officials made disparaging remarks about Modi on social media.

Background of India-Maldives Relations

India and the Maldives have traditionally had strong ties. Geographically, the two countries are closely intertwined, with the Maldives situated off India’s southwestern coast. Economically and militarily, the Maldives relies heavily on India as well. As a 2020 article notes:

“The Maldives’ economy is closely intertwined with India, which has provided extensive financial assistance after the 2008 global financial crisis wiped out much of the Maldives’ GDP…India has been the Maldives’ first responder in crises.” (Source)

However, under the presidency of Abdulla Yameen from 2013-2018, the Maldives began developing closer ties with China, straining its relationship with India. Current Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih was elected in 2018 and worked to restore India-Maldives relations during his first years in office.

Modi’s Lakshadweep Visit Sparks Controversy

On January 7th, 2024, Modi posted pictures on social media of his visit to the Lakshadweep islands, an Indian territory off the southwestern coast. The posts drew attention to development projects India had sponsored in Lakshadweep.

Some Maldivian officials took offense to the social media posts, seeing them as an assertion of India’s power in the region and a veiled message contrasting India’s development work in Lakshadweep with the lack of similar projects sponsored by China in the Maldives.

Disparaging Tweets From Maldivian Officials

Several Maldivian officials responded by disparaging Modi in tweets and comments. These included:

  • Tourism Minister Ali Riyaz calling Modi a “puppet”
  • MP Ahmed Shiyam calling Modi a “clown”
  • MP Muizzu calling Modi an “Islamophobe” and “terrorist sympathizer”
Official Insulting Comment
Tourism Minister Ali Riyaz Referred to Modi as a “puppet”
MP Ahmed Shiyam Called Modi a “clown”
MP Muizzu Called Modi an “Islamophobe” and “terrorist sympathizer”

The remarks prompted outrage in India. The Indian foreign ministry summoned the Maldivian ambassador to protest the officials’ comments.

In response, the Maldivian government suspended all three officials pending investigations. President Solih’s office also released a statement saying the comments did not reflect the Maldives’ official stance.

India Outraged; Calls for Boycott Mount

Nevertheless, the damage had been done. Outrage swept across India as the public and politicians demanded an apology.

Indian travel agencies announced suspensions of bookings to the Maldives. Major Indian celebrities also weighed in to admonish the Maldives and call for boycotts. With India the source of 250,000 tourists to the Maldives annually, a boycott could devastate the island nation’s tourism-dependent economy.

Attempts to Defuse Tensions

In the aftermath, both governments attempted to smooth over relations and prevent further escalations.

The Maldivian foreign ministry contended the officials were expressing personal opinions, not government policy. President Solih’s office also released a statement saying Modi was a “close friend” and the disparaging remarks did not represent the Maldives’ stance.

Meanwhile, India’s Ministry of External Affairs summoned the Maldivian ambassador to lodge a formal protest. But behind the scenes, Indian officials pressed Maldivian authorities for a thorough investigation rather than harsh punishments.

Uncertain Future for India-Maldives Ties

Looking ahead, the future trajectory of India-Maldives relations remains uncertain. Despite recent attempts to salvage ties, damage has been done. Trust between the two countries has eroded.

India remains concerned over growing Chinese influence in its backyard. It will likely seek assurances that the Maldives is not falling back under Chinese sway.

For the Maldives’ tourism-dependent economy, an Indian boycott could prove disastrous. But with national elections upcoming next year, Maldivian politicians may seek to stoke anti-India sentiments for electoral gain.

Both countries ultimately share mutual interests in maintaining stability in the region. But this latest spat underscores the underlying tensions in this complicated bilateral relationship.

This story will continue to develop in the coming days and weeks. India’s next moves, the potential impact on Maldivian tourism, and the outcome of the officials’ suspensions will emerge as key questions for the future.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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