India’s leading travel platform EaseMyTrip has suspended flight bookings to the Maldives after offensive comments by Maldivian officials about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sparked an escalating diplomatic row between the countries.
The move came after India summoned the Maldives ambassador over remarks from at least three Maldivian officials mocking Modi’s recent visit to Lakshadweep island. The insults, calling Modi an Israeli “puppet” and “terrorist”, prompted outrage in India and calls for a boycott of Maldives tourism.
Timeline of India-Maldives Tensions
|Maldives officials condemn Modi’s Lakshadweep visit on Twitter
|India demands apology and summons envoy as #BoycottMaldives trends
|Maldives suspends 3 officials for “derogatory” tweets
|Leading travel agency EaseMyTrip halts Maldives bookings
India Demands Apology as Tensions Mount
The crisis erupted last weekend when Ali Zahir, State Minister for Youth and Sports, wrote on Twitter that there was a “permanent smell” in Lakshadweep after Modi’s recent visit to promote the island cluster. Former Maldivian Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem called Modi an Israeli “puppet”, while ex-State Minister Asela Gunawardena labeled him a religious “terrorist”.
The remarks provoked outrage in India, which has traditionally had good relations with its southern neighbor. India provides extensive economic aid and military protection to the strategically located Maldives, which relies heavily on Indian tourists.
India’s Foreign Ministry summoned Maldives ambassador Munu Mahawar to lodge a strong protest over the “derogatory remarks”. External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the comments “do not reflect the views of the government and people of Maldives”.
As the hashtag #BoycottMaldives went viral on Indian social media, Maldives President Ibrahim Solih’s office announced the suspension of the three officials pending an inquiry. The Maldives government also issued a carefully worded statement saying, “Remarks against PM Modi do not reflect the views of the people or Maldives”.
Travel Firm Suspends Bookings, Hitting Tourism Industry
On Monday, India’s largest online travel platform EaseMyTrip declared it was suspending flight bookings to any destination in the Maldives with immediate effect. The company cited the “rising tensions” between the countries.
The move is a blow to the tourism-dependent Maldivian economy and its cordial relations with neighboring India. According to Maldivian immigration records, nearly 300,000 Indians visited the islands in 2021 accounting for 23% of the total 1.3 million tourist arrivals.
Tour operators and hotel associations in the Maldives expressed concern over EaseMyTrip’s decision, appealing to the Indian firm not to victimise a country due to “the actions of a few individuals”.
However, the reverse also holds true. The Maldives relies heavily on wealthy Indian tourists to keep its tourism industry afloat. Calls for an Indian boycott could have severe economic consequences. India also has leverage due to the extensive infrastructure aid it provides as the Maldives tackles the existential threat of climate change and rising sea levels.
Uncertain Future for India-Maldives Ties
The diplomatic crisis has cast a cloud over the traditionally friendly relationship between India and the tropical paradise, which occupies a strategically important location along vital Indian Ocean shipping routes.
It remains unclear precisely what sparked the Maldivian officials’ hostile tweets over what seemed a harmless visit by Modi. Speculation ranges from domestic resentment against India’s influence to opposition politicians stirring up trouble for electoral gains.
While the Maldives was quick to suspend the officials and reaffirm ties with India, calls for boycotts in India show most find the apologies unsatisfactory so far. With nationalist sentiments running high ahead of a general election next year, the Indian government also cannot appear weak. Much depends on reconciliatory efforts taken by Maldivian President Solih.
Either way, India-Maldives relations seem set for a period of strain. The impacts may show in months to come if India reviews aid offers and if wealthy Indian tourists choose other locations for their holidays. Both countries will likely attempt damage control to ensure their long-term strategic and economic interests stay aligned. But this sudden breakdown of trust stemming from social media remarks on both sides shows just how delicate and vulnerable diplomatic relationships can be.
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.