NEW DELHI, Jan 7: The row over three junior ministers and some other leaders of Maldives making derogatory remarks against the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has backfired against the island nation largely depended on beach tourism.
Enraged over insulting comments against their prime minister, many Indians claimed on the social media that they have cancelled their planned holidays to Maldives while many celebrities like Akshay Kumar and Sachin Tendulkar appealing to Indians to promote the domestic tourism instead of making trips to Maldives.
India is the largest supplier of tourists to Maldives and if India boycott the island nation, its economy would be in tatters.
The controversy stems from a tweet by a Maldives minister, accusing India of targeting the nation and asserting that India faces challenges in competing with the Maldives in beach tourism. Many on social media have shared purported screenshots of their cancelled air travel and hotel bookings. Additionally ‘#BoycottMaldives’ is also one of the top trends on X in India.
The diplomatic tension between India and the Maldives has spiked in recent months, particularly after President Mohamed Muizzu assumed office in November last year. The new president has indicated a shift in foreign policy, signalling closer ties with China and a departure from the previous “India first” approach.
The Maldives, located strategically in the Indian Ocean, remains a key player in India’s regional initiatives such as ‘SAGAR’ (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and the ‘Neighbourhood First Policy.’
Muizzu’s upcoming visit to China, scheduled for January 8 to 12, has further fuelled the controversy. The visit, which is the president’s first state visit since taking office, is seen as a significant move towards strengthening ties with China. This shift is evident in the president’s choice of foreign destinations, including visits to Turkey and the UAE, before engaging with India.
Besides general tourists, several prominent Indian celebrities have taken to social media to express their solidarity with Lakshadweep and encourage fellow citizens to explore the beauty of the islands.
Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar took to X to express his astonishment at the derogatory comments from some Maldives public figures. “Came across comments from prominent public figures from Maldives passing hateful and racist comments on Indians. Surprised that they are doing this to a country that sends them the maximum number of tourists. We are good to our neighbours but why should we tolerate such unprovoked hate? I’ve visited the Maldives many times and always praised it, but dignity first. Let us decide to #ExploreIndianIslands and support our own tourism,” Mr Kumar posted on X.
John Abraham, another popular actor, praised the hospitality and marine life in Lakshadweep. “With the amazing Indian hospitality, the idea of ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ and a vast marine life to explore. Lakshadweep is the place to go,” he wrote.
Actress Shraddha Kapoor joined the chorus, expressing her desire to explore Lakshadweep’s pristine beaches and coastlines. “All these images and memes making me super FOMO now. Lakshadweep has such pristine beaches and coastlines, thriving local culture, I’m on the verge of booking an impulse chhutti this year, why not #ExploreIndianIslands,” she posted on X.
Actor Salman Khan praised the beautiful and clean beaches of Lakshadweep. “It is so cool to see our Hon PM Narendrabhai Modi at the beautiful clean n stunning beaches of Lakshadweep, and the best part is that yeh hamare India mein hain,” he wrote.
Cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar also joined the campaign, reminiscing about his experience in Maharashtra’s Sindhudurg recently.
“250+ days since we rang in my 50th birthday in Sindhudurg! The coastal town offered everything we wanted, and more. Gorgeous locations combined with wonderful hospitality left us with a treasure trove of memories. India is blessed with beautiful coastlines and pristine islands. With our ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ philosophy, we have so much to explore, so many memories waiting to be created,” Mr Tendulkar wrote.