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Business News/ News / India/  India promoting Lakshadweep beaches for tourism. How attacks on PM Modi are backfiring on Maldives

India promoting Lakshadweep beaches for tourism. How attacks on PM Modi are backfiring on Maldives

Lakshadweep's popularity as a tourism destination surged after PM Modi's visit. This prompted some Maldivians to take a dig at India on social media. However, the “derogatory” remarks against PM Modi by Maldivian leaders are fueling a diplomatic row, which might hit the island nation's finances.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi relaxes on one of the pristine beaches in Lakshadweep on Thursday. (ANI)Premium
Prime Minister Narendra Modi relaxes on one of the pristine beaches in Lakshadweep on Thursday. (ANI)

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit, Lakshadweep topped the Google trends in India for two days. This sparked speculations that Indians might be looking at the country's smallest Union Territory as their next tourist destination.

But, in an unexpected fallout, PM Modi promoting Lakshadweep as a beach destination seems to have triggered the people of Maldives — which is already a popular holiday hotspot for many Indians.

ALSO READ: Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu's China visit deepens diplomatic shift as India, Maldives ties strain

Meanwhile, the people of Maldives took to social media on Sunday, promoting "#VisitMaldives'. This was days after PM Modi visited Lakshadweep and urged citizens to "embrace the adventurer in them" by touring the Union territory.

Here's a detailed look at how the Indian government is planning to boost tourism within India and why it didn't go down well with the Maldives specifically.

India promoting its beaches for tourism

In the first week of January, PM Modi visited Lakshadweep and shared a couple of pictures, showing the "stunning beauty of its islands". From "early morning walks" to trying snorkelling, the Indian prime minister said his visit to the islands was "an enriching journey of learning and growing".

Before this, Diu, an island located near the coast of Kathiyawad region at Veraval port, hosted the Beach Game Festival for the first time. The government organised Diu Beach Games 2024 from January 4 to 11.

The Administrator of Union Territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli was quoted by ANI as saying, “I am confident that this will develop the culture of beach games, promote the sports talents of the union territory and increase the tourism potential of the union territory. The event will attract locals and tourists alike."

The Indian prime minister has not just been promoting beaches to boost India's tourism. He had last year pitched the concept of "Wed in India" on the lines of "Made in India". In his monthly "Man Ki Baat" on November 26, PM Modi introduced the concept of "Wed in India", urging citizens to opt for destination weddings within the country.

Later, at the Uttarakhand Global Investors Summit in December 2023, PM Modi tried to promote Uttarakhand as an ideal state for destination weddings.

"Just ponder...these days a new milieu is being created by some families to go abroad and conduct weddings. Is this at all necessary? If we celebrate the festivities of marriages on Indian soil, amid the people of India, the country’s money will remain in the country," the PM had said in his address in the 107th Episode of ‘Mann Ki Baat’.

But why is Maldives objecting to the Lakshadweep move?

The rising popularity of Lakshadweep after PM Modi's visit is feared to impact tourism in the Maldives. But now, the "derogatory" remarks against PM Modi by a few political leaders of the Maldives have added fuel to the fire.

A few political leaders of the island nation suspected that PM Modi's promotion of Lakshadweep was an attempt to project the Union Territory as an alternative tourist destination or a “competition" to the Maldives.

ALSO READ: Former Maldives ministers hail 'age-old friendship' amid row over 'derogatory' remarks against PM Modi | Top quotes

One of the Maldivian political leaders, Zahid Rameez, reportedly took a dig at India, saying that the "idea of competing with us is delusional". He said his "sentiments were expressed in the context of growing Indian influence in" Maldives political affairs. Rameez is a member of the Progressive Party of Maldives Senate.

ALSO READ: Maldives govt clarifies after minister Shiuna's ‘derogatory’ remarks on PM Modi: ‘Will not hesitate to take action’

As Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar shared a screenshot of his tweet, Rameez said in another post, "For the record, I have nothing personal against India, Indians or Prime Minister HE Narendra Modi. My sentiments were expressed in the context of growing Indian influence in our political affairs in the past 5 years- with former ruling @MDPSecretariat to blame for that."


Meanwhile, another leader Abdulla Mahzoom Majid said he wished success for India's tourism, but added that "targeting the Maldives so explicitly isn't diplomatic." As per a screenshot of his tweet shared by Akshay Kumar, Majid said, "India faces significant challenges competing in beach tourism, considering our resort infrastructure exceeds their total island."

Maldivian Deputy Minister of Youth Empowerment, Mariyam Shiuna, in a now-deleted post, made a mocking and disrespectful reference to PM Modi over his visit to the Indian island cluster, according to reports.

How important are Indians for Maldives tourism?

Notably, lakhs of Indians toured Maldives in the past few years. Indians top Maldives' tourist arrival figures, with more than 2 lakh of them visiting it every year after the COVID-19 pandemic, news agency PTI reported.

According to the Maldives tourism ministry statistics, more than 2.09 lakh Indians visited the island nation in 2023. The number was more than 2.41 lakh in 2022 while over 2.9 lakh Indians flew to the Maldives in 2021.

Amid the India-Maldives row, former sports minister of the Maldives, Ahmed Mahloof, admitted that "Indians boycotting the Maldives" will hit the country hard.

"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," he was quoted by PTI as saying on Sunday.

Maldives wounded further: The impact of remarks against India

As Maldivians feared an impact on its tourism with Lakshadweep as an "alternative option", a few leaders of the country dug their own graves with their remarks against India, as many Indians cancelled their scheduled trips to the Maldives.

1. "#BycottMaldives" trends

"#BycottMaldives" trended in India on X (formerly known as Twitter) as the statement by three Maldives deputy ministers came to light. Many Indians took to social media to share their cancelled tickets to the Maldives and their reservations on the island nation.

2. EaseMyTrip says no to Maldives bookings

EaseMyTrip said on Monday it has suspended all flight bookings to the island nation on its website "in solidarity" with India. The travel company's co-founder Prashant Pitti told ANI, "Our company has recently taken the decision to not accept bookings for Maldives. The reason for this is the row over Maldives MP's post on PM Modi's visit to Lakshadweep. We have taken this decision to establish 'nation first and business later'..."


3. MakeMyTrip observes 3,400% increase in searches for Lakshadweep

Following EaseMyTrip's decision, another travel company MakeMyTrip claimed it observed a 3,400 per cent increase in on-platform searches for Lakshadweep ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the islands. This came as "#LakshadweepTourism" trended on X on Monday evening.

"We have observed a 3400 per cent increase in on-platform searches for Lakshadweep ever since Honorable PM's visit. This interest in Indian beaches has inspired us to launch a 'Beaches of India' campaign on the platform with offers and discounts to encourage Indian travellers to explore country's stunning beaches. Keep watching this space!," MakeMyTrip said in a post on social media platform X.


4. CAIT asks traders to refrain from dealing with Maldives

Traders' body Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) called upon domestic traders and exporters to refrain from conducting business dealings with the island nation, PTI reported.

CAIT Secretary General Praveen Khandelwal said that the offensive comments targeting PM Modi have been deemed unacceptable by the business community, and this call to boycott aims to express solidarity and register disapproval against such disrespectful behaviour.

Maldives' damage-control move

Moosa Zameer, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Maldives, said in a post, “The recent remarks against foreign leaders and our close neighbours are unacceptable and do not reflect the official position of the Government of Maldives."

"We remain committed to fostering a positive and constructive dialogue with all our partners, especially our neighbours, based on mutual respect and understanding," he added.


The Maldives government also said it suspended three of its deputy ministers on Sunday after they criticised PM Modi for his post on X following his visit to Lakshadweep, "inferring that it was an attempt to project the Union Territory as an alternative tourist destination to the Maldives", news agency PTI reported. These three ministers were Malsha Shareef, Mariyam Shiuna and Abdulla Mahzoom Majid.

Meanwhile, amid a fresh row following "derogatory" remarks by these Maldives leaders, the nation's former Deputy Speaker Abdulla said she wants to apologise for the remarks and urged Indians to keep coming to the Maldives.

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Published: 08 Jan 2024, 08:38 PM IST
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