On January 5, 2024, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi delighted the world with breathtaking images from his Lakshadweep visit, showcasing the islands’ pristine beaches and exotic locales. Little did he know that this picturesque post would set off a ripple effect, culminating in a potential diplomatic clash with the Maldives.
The controversy began when three deputy ministers from the Maldives’ Ministry of Youth Affairs took to social media to criticize India and the Prime Minister for seemingly ignoring foreign tourism in his promotional posts. This diplomatic fracas has fueled social media firestorms, leading to a clash of opinions and calls for boycotting Maldivian tourism. But is Lakshadweep truly superior to the Maldives, and can India leverage this moment to bolster its tourism sector while fostering economic development in Lakshadweep ?
The Maldives’ Verbal Barrage
Maryam Shiuna, Malsha Shareef, and Mahzoom Majid, the deputy ministers from the Maldives, ignited the spark by making disparaging remarks about India’s intentions in Lakshadweep. Shiuna’s reference to India’s ties with Israel fueled the flames, suggesting a sinister motive behind Modi’s visit. The deputies speculated that India aimed to challenge the Maldives’ renowned beachside tourism, setting off a wave of xenophobic and racist posts on social
media. This online onslaught escalated when Maldivian news outlets sensationalized the situation, alleging that India had launched an intentional campaign against Maldivian tourism.
A Storm of Social Media
The controversy unfolded further as Maldivian social media users joined the chorus of criticism against India. Comments disparaging India and Indians, coupled with comparisons between the Maldives and Lakshadweep, flooded the online space. Zahid Rameez, a Progressive Party of Maldives member, went on record stating, “The move is great. However, the notion of competing with us is naive. How can they deliver the service that we do? How can they be that spotless? The most serious disadvantage will be the persistent smell in the rooms.
Indian Response and Celebrity Backlash
In response to the mockery, some Indian social media users vowed not to vacation in the Maldives, initiating a boycott against Maldivian hotels and resorts. Travel portal EaseMyTrip even suspended flight bookings to the Maldives in protest. Indian celebrities, including Akshay Kumar, Bhumi Pednekar, Pooja Hegde, and others, expressed their travel aspirations, declaring a preference for Lakshadweep over the Maldives.
The escalating tension prompted the Indian government to summon the Maldivian envoy to address the issue formally. Expressing strong concern over the derogatory remarks made against Prime Minister Modi, the Indian government emphasized the inappropriateness of such behaviour. Maldives Minister of Foreign Affairs Moosa Zameer distanced the government from the comments, calling them “unacceptable” and clarifying that they did not reflect the official position of the Maldivian government.
Lakshadweep’s Tourism Potential
While the diplomatic storm rages on, it’s crucial to consider the untapped tourism potential of Lakshadweep. Prime Minister Modi’s promotional posts aimed at showcasing India’s natural beauty could be a catalyst for a surge in domestic and international tourism to Lakshadweep. The Indian government should seize this opportunity to position Lakshadweep as an attractive alternative to the Maldives, fostering economic growth and employment opportunities.
Empowering Employment in Lakshadweep
Lakshadweep, with its azure waters and pristine landscapes, can become a tourism hotspot, driving employment in various sectors. The development of hospitality, transportation, and recreational facilities would create job opportunities for the local population. By promoting sustainable and responsible tourism practices, Lakshadweep can emerge as a model for eco- friendly destination development.
As the diplomatic spat unfolds, India has the chance to turn the narrative towards positive development prospects. Lakshadweep’s potential as a tourist haven presents a unique opportunity to showcase India’s commitment to inclusive growth. The government should focus on infrastructure development, ensuring accessibility to the islands, and implementing policies that facilitate tourism while preserving the fragile ecosystem.
It turns in India’s Favour While the clash between Lakshadweep and the Maldives simmers on the diplomatic stage, India has an unprecedented chance to harness this controversy for positive gains. By promoting Lakshadweep as an enticing tourist destination, India can not only dispel the negative narrative but also empower the local economy. The focus should be on sustainable development, fostering employment opportunities, and positioning Lakshadweep as a jewel in India’s tourism crown. The world is watching, and it’s time for India to turn the tide in its favour