Israel Pitched for Developing Lakshadweep as a Tourist Destination, Tour Operator Suspends all Bookings to Maldives
NEW DELHI, Jan 8: Even as the Maldivian government informed the Indian high commissioner that the disparaging remarks by the three suspended ministers did not represent the government’s views and it continue to support India, Israel on Monday pitched for developing Lakshadweep as a tourist destination and one of the major tour operators in the country announced suspension of all bookings for Maldives.
The Maldivian Government has informed India’s High Commissioner Munu Muhawar on Monday that the three suspended junior ministers making derogatory remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and India did not represent the government’s views. The Indian High Commissioner had a pre-arranged meeting with Dr Ali Naseer Mohamed, the Ambassador-at-Large at the Foreign Ministry on Monday.
“High Commissioner Munu Mahawar had a pre-arranged meeting with H.E. Dr Ali Naseer Mohamed, Ambassador at Large, at MoFA, Maldives, today to discuss bilateral issues,” the Indian High Commission posted on X. A top Maldivian government official said Naseer made it clear that the remarks do not reflect the views of the Maldivian Government, and reaffirmed Maldives’ continued support for its neighbour.
The meeting came after India summoned Maldivian envoy Ibrahim Shaheeb on Monday to the External Affairs Ministry and conveyed strong concern over remarks posted on social media against the Indian Prime Minister by three ministers of the Maldives Government. In New Delhi, official sources said the Indian high commission in Male strongly raised the matter with the Maldivian foreign ministry on Sunday.
Malsha Shareef, Mariyam Shiuna and Abdulla Mahzoom Majid – three deputy ministers at the Youth Ministry – had made derogatory remarks against India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on social media platform X, in response to a video promoting tourism in Lakshadweep following Mr Modi’s visit to the pristine island last week. In a post on X Modi had also said, “For those who wish to embrace the adventurer in them, Lakshadweep has to be on your list.” The three junior ministers were suspended on Sunday after the remarks sparked an uproar on Indian social media.
The disparaging remarks by the ministers have drawn flak in India, with many celebrities urging people on X to explore domestic tourist destinations instead of going to the Maldives. There were also posts on social media claiming that some Indians are cancelling their scheduled trip to the Maldives following the diplomatic row.
The Maldives government has distanced itself from the remarks made by its ministers. The Maldivian Foreign Ministry said the government is aware of “derogatory remarks” on social media platforms against foreign leaders and that the personal views do not represent its position. “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,” the Maldivian Foreign Ministry had said in a statement on Sunday.
The Israeli embassy in India pitched for promoting tourism in Lakshadweep. “We were in #Lakshadweep last year upon the federal government’s request to initiate the desalination program. Israel is ready to commence working on this project tomorrow. For those who are yet to witness the pristine and majestic underwater beauty of #lakshadweepislands, here are a few pictures showing this island’s enchanting allure,” the Israeli embassy wrote on X. It also shared pictures of the pristine beaches and marine life in Lakshadweep.
The co-founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of EaseMyTrip, Nishant Pitti, on Monday announced the suspension of all Maldives flight bookings following the diplomatic row between the two countries. Nishant Pitti took to social media X, stating, “In solidarity with our nation, @EaseMyTrip has suspended all Maldives flight bookings.
Online travel solutions provider EaseMyTrip began visit Lakshadweep campaign by #ChaloLakshadweep. In his post on X, he said, “Water & beaches of Lakshadweep are as good as Maldives/Seychelles We at @EaseMyTrip will come up with crazy special-offers to promote this pristine destination.
Another tour operator MakemyTrip claimed a 3,400 per cent drop in making inquiries about trips to Maldives.
Earlier in the day, the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) predicted that the call for a boycott of Maldives would become apparent within the next 20-25 days. Many Indians on social media have claimed that they have cancelled their planned holidays to the island nation. “Suddenly, there has been no inquiry on Maldives. There are sudden drops. Those who have made payments will not cancel them. We are expecting that people will not book trips to the Maldives,” IATO president Rajiv Mehra said.
Another operator echoed a similar sentiment, stating that such statements by politicians prevent people from choosing a particular nation for a trip. The Maldives is a popular place among Indians as a tourist destination. Indian tourists were the highest among visitors to the Maldives till December 2023, according to data from the country’s tourism ministry.
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). “Maldives is quite popular among Indians. But this incident will have an impact. We are also seeing an impact right now as well. We are expecting a downfall in people choosing the Maldives as a tourist destination,” a Delhi-based tour operator said.