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A La Lakshdweep vs Maldives

By Priti Prakash | PUBLISHED: 09, Jan 2024, 19:58 pm IST | UPDATED: 24, Jan 2024, 20:43 pm IST

A La Lakshdweep vs Maldives I may or may not be a Modi die hard fan but the recent India Maldives episode has made me sit up , dust my hands, adjusted my collars and say, ‘Yeh mera India, I love my India’.

A social media post of PM Modi in Lakshadweep has turned the neighbor called Maldives, a hyper ventilated lot. No comparisons, but the X space was a slugfest of sorts. ‘Clown,’ ‘Puppet’…. The words don’t sound polite, respectful or diplomatically correct, they were jarring to say the least. Well, the shattering effect and optics of Modi’s visit is breaking all records of internet search about the pristine islands of Lakshadweep as the Boycott Maldives hashtag trends. So for the idiotic statements by the Maldivian ministers.      

Maldives India relations are showing stress signs since the new President has taken over reigns. Lately three minsters from President Muizzu’s govt posted disparaging remarks on social media X after PM Modi’s visit to Lakshadweep asking Indian’s to travel to the virgin islands, which went viral. The 3 ministers were soon sacked and others including Maldives former President Nasheed, decrying the appalling statements made by their ministers, called for action against them. The government rushed to issue statement vouching that views expressed by the public representatives were their personal and were not the government stand.

Former Maldives sports minister Ahmed Mahloof expressed concern over the row saying, ‘I am deeply worried about the escalating situation regarding the comments about our closest neighbour. Indians boycotting the Maldives would have a huge impact on our economy. It would be hard for us to recover from such a campaign. I call on the government to swiftly take serious action to solve the issue as soon as possible.”

The eruption of social media backlash on the PM Modi’s Lakshadweep visit and Maldivian views has amplified on one side the mindset of a small section of Maldives populace and on the other the potential of Modi’s influence in making or breaking situations & public opinion on the travel choices too of people at large. Overturning economies in that sense. Tourism is the mainstay of the island nation of Maldives, with majority stake from Indian travellers, a 11.3% as recorded in 2023. Indians were top tourists followed by Russians. A fallout with India can actually affect Maldives economy dive down. Will Muizzu’s damage control reverse the huge tourism exodus that is likely to be seen in coming days!

As per reports some top Indian travel companies like Ease My Trip have stopped Maldives bookings. The Maldivian Ambassador in India too met EAM S Jaishankar and conveyed his government’s take.

Despite Muizzu’s assurance of non baises before election in October, after Muizzu’s taking over as President of Maldives, contrary to the norm of India as the destination of any President’s first visit, he undertook his first visit to Turkey followed by China. An ostensible anti India tilt made him ask India to remove its troops from the island as a first step and then end the Hydrological survey pact.

As for India, we has been providing security and developmental assistance to Maldives as our Neighborhood First policy. Some of them being financial assistance of USD 100 million in 2022 to tide over the difficult economic situation in the Maldives, Sea Ambulances to transport patients in emergency conditions from one island to another, a grant assistance of more than $400,000 for the Maldives’ defence ministry as part of efforts to strengthen the healthcare delivery system, defence projects under an Indian line of credit of $50 million and infrastructure assistance worth $ 100 million, India has always been the first responder in times of any crisis.

Maldives is an important geographical entity in the Indian Ocean region that India considers its sphere of influence and an equally important neighbor. India’s significant clout and deft in the region cannot let any country ignore it effectively. At the same time the imperialistic ambitions of China is no hidden fact. The IOR is increasingly becoming a zone of hectic and important military and strategic activity. Commercial trade routes in IOR are also being increasingly challenged. To top it up is China’s expansionist and hegemonistic aspirations, which manifests in its creation of String of Pearls with the intention of circling India. Although nations are increasingly getting aware of the Dargon’s debt diplomacy, the most visible sign of which is BRI, Maldives seem to be ready to walk into the arms of the dragon for a bloody kiss.

Lakshadweep isn’t like Maldives and it needn’t be too. Both have a distinct topography and tourism potential. So Maldivians need not worry. Hope it hasn’t made a huge mistake by its acrimonious and begrudging posts. Relations between nations may have their ups and downs as per their leaders and governments but finally whats good for the nation and its peoples’ interests is of ultimate concern….. Nasheed, Solih or Muizzu, whoever be it.