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Business News/ News / India/  India-Maldives Diplomatic Row: 3 ministers suspended, EaseMyTrip stops bookings, Lakshadweep in focus | Top 10 Updates
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India-Maldives Diplomatic Row: 3 ministers suspended, EaseMyTrip stops bookings, Lakshadweep in focus | Top 10 Updates

The Maldives government has suspended three ministers for their derogatory remarks about India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, causing a backlash on social media and leading to the cancellation of thousands of hotel bookings and flight tickets by Indian tourists.

The largest number of tourists who visited the Maldives were from India (2,09,198), followed by Russia (2,09,146) and China (1,87,118). (REUTERS/Reinhard Krause )Premium
The largest number of tourists who visited the Maldives were from India (2,09,198), followed by Russia (2,09,146) and China (1,87,118). (REUTERS/Reinhard Krause )

The Maldives government suspended three of its ministers- Mariyam Shiuna, Malsha, and Hassan Zihan- for their ‘derogatory remarks on India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, following the latter's Lakshadweep visit, as per media reports. 

The local media quoted Maldives government spokesperson Ibrahim Khaleel, “All government officials responsible for the comments have been suspended from their post effective immediately". Earlier, one of the suspended deputy ministers of the Maldives cabinet, Hassan Zihan, had quoted a local media tweet on microblogging platform X and had called the news “Fake".

What happened?

A row erupted on social media last week when a minister and some other leaders in the Maldives used derogatory remarks against PM Modi after he posted a video of him on a beach in Lakshadweep.

The post by Mariyam Shiuna – which has now been deleted – featured the pictures of PM Modi from his recent visit to Lakshadweep. The Deputy Minister of Youth Empowerment, Information and Arts, referred to the Indian prime minister as a ‘clown’ and a ‘puppet of Israel’.

In a statement on Sunday, the Maldivian Foreign Ministry said they were aware of the “derogatory remarks on social media platforms against foreign leaders and high-ranking individuals", adding that “these opinions are personal and do not represent the views of the Government of Maldives." 

Here is the top 10 updates

1. EaseMyTrip announces suspension of flight bookings: EaseMyTrip CEO Nishant Pitti announced the suspension of all flight bookings to the Maldives. He took to social media to state, "@EaseMyTrip has suspended all Maldives flight bookings." The company has also joined the 'Visit Lakshadweep' campaign, aiming to promote the domestic destination. Pitti highlighted the beauty of Lakshadweep's water and beaches, likening them to Maldives and Seychelles, and assured special offers to promote the locale.

2. 8,000 hotels, 2,500 flights cancelled: Over 8,000 hotel bookings, as well as 2,500 flight tickets, have been cancelled by Indian tourists following the incident. The largest number of tourists who visited the Maldives were from India (2,09,198), followed by Russia (2,09,146) and China (1,87,118).

3. Impact to be felt in 20-25 days, say tour operators: Rajiv Mehra, president of the Indian Association of Tour Operators, predicted a significant decline in Maldives travel within the next 20-25 days. Mehra noted a sudden decrease in inquiries and bookings, attributing it to the tensions. He highlighted that those who've made payments might refrain from canceling but expect a notable drop in future bookings to the Maldives.

4. Social media boycott trends: The controversy saw many on social media call for a boycott of Maldives as a tourism destination. The hashtag 'BoycottMaldives' has also gained momentum to become a top social media trend in India. Reports and social media assertions indicate that many have scrapped holiday plans. Maldives’ economy is heavily dependent on tourism while Indians contribute a significant percentage of it every year.

5. Lakshadweep and other Indian islands in focus as alternatives: As the rift widened, #ExploreIndianIslands started trending on social media platform X (formerly Twitter) where Indians praised the exquisite beauty of Indian islands and requested the citizens to prefer them over Maldives.

6. Celebrities join online campaign: “With the amazing Indian hospitality, the idea of “Atithi Devo Bhava" and a vast marine life to explore. Lakshwadeep is the place to go," Bollywood actor John Abraham said in a post on X.

“India is so beautiful. Was over awed by the pristine beauty and the rich history of Andaman and Nicobar Islands while shooting the Kalapani chapter of Veer Savarkar’s life .. a must visit," actor Randeep Hooda said.

7. Akshay Kumar condemns 'hateful, racist' remarks: Expressing dismay at the remarks made by prominent figures from the Maldives, Akshay Kumar condemned the hateful and racist comments directed towards Indians. He questioned why such unwarranted hate should be tolerated toward a country that extends substantial tourism support to its neighbours. Despite his frequent visits to the Maldives and his admiration for the destination, Akshay Kumar stressed the importance of preserving dignity. He urged people to consider exploring Indian islands and supporting domestic tourism. This statement was shared by Akshay Kumar on X, previously known as Twitter.

8. Salman Khan praises PM Modi for Lakshadweep visit: In a separate instance, superstar Salman Khan commended PM Modi for his visit to Lakshadweep and the picturesque images he shared from the island. The 'Tiger 3' actor expressed his delight at witnessing the Prime Minister amidst the splendid and pristine beaches of Lakshadweep, emphasizing the joy of these sights being located within India. Salman Khan's remarks were posted on X.

9. Maldives government distances self from 'personal remarks' by ministers: The Maldivian government distanced itself from the controversial remarks of key government ministers. “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...Moreover, the relevant authorities of the Government will not hesitate to take action against those who make such derogatory remarks," the government said in a statement.

10. Former Maldivian leaders criticise 'hateful' language, say India is an age-old friend: Former President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih condemned the “hateful" language used against India. "I condemn the use of hateful language against India by Maldivian government officials on social media. India has always been a good friend to Maldives and we must not allow such callous remarks to negatively impact the age-old friendship between our two countries..." Ibrahim Mohamed Solih said.

Former foreign minister of Maldives Abdullah Shahid called the derogatory remarks “reprehensible and odious" in a post on X (formerly Twitter). “I call on the Government to reprimand these officials. Public figures must maintain decorum. They must accept that they are no longer social media activists and that they are now entrusted with the responsibility of protecting the interests of the people and the country. India is a time-tested friend and an unwavering ally. They have historically been the first to respond in our time of need. Our close relationship has been bound by mutual respect, history, culture, and strong people-to-people relations."

Ahmed Mahloof, former Maldivian minister also expressed concern over the Indian Prime Minister, saying “I’m deeply worried about the escalating situation regarding the sensitive comments about our closest neighbor. 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 ASAP. We love India and Indians, and India will always remain our closest neighbor".

(With inputs from ANI, Reuters)

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Published: 08 Jan 2024, 08:09 AM IST
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