A recent diplomatic row between India and Maldives has sparked a social media campaign to boycott the island nation as a tourist destination. The controversy was triggered by some derogatory comments made by Maldivian leaders against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his policies. The remarks have angered many Indians, who have decided to cancel their trips and bookings to Maldives and urged others to do the same.
The backlash has also drawn criticism from fellow Maldivians, who have expressed their solidarity with India and condemned the actions of their government. The boycott campaign could have a significant impact on the tourism and economy of Maldives, which relies heavily on Indian visitors and investments.
Sparking Controversy: Leaders’ Derogatory Comments Against PM Modi
The diplomatic spat between India and Maldives began when Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid tweeted a picture of himself with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and praised him for his “vision for peace in South Asia and beyond”. Many Indians saw this as a snub to Modi, who has been at odds with Pakistan over the Kashmir issue and other matters. Shahid’s tweet was followed by another tweet from Maldivian Speaker Mohamed Nasheed, who called Modi a “religious extremist” and accused him of “undermining democracy” in India. Nasheed also criticized India’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which grants citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from neighboring countries, and said that it was “anti-Muslim” and “unconstitutional”.
#BoycottMaldives Trends on Social Media
The comments by Shahid and Nasheed sparked a wave of outrage among Indians, who took to social media to express their displeasure and disappointment with Maldives. Many Indians used the hashtag #BoycottMaldives to announce their decision to cancel their trips and bookings to the island nation and urged others to follow suit. Some Indians also shared pictures of their canceled tickets and hotel reservations and said that they would rather visit other destinations that respect India and its leader. Some Indians also pointed out the irony of Maldivian leaders criticizing India, when India has been a generous and reliable partner to Maldives, providing aid, assistance, and investments in various sectors.
Male Responds by Suspending 3 Ministers
The Maldivian government, sensing the gravity of the situation, tried to contain the damage and appease India. Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih issued a statement, saying that he was “deeply concerned” by the comments made by Shahid and Nasheed and that they did not reflect the official position of Maldives. Solih also said that he valued the “close and friendly” relations with India and that he would take “appropriate action” against the offenders. Solih then suspended three ministers from his cabinet, who were allegedly involved in spreading anti-India propaganda on social media. The suspended ministers were Minister of State for Health Ahmed Naseem, Minister of State for Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment Ahmed Mahloof, and Minister of State for Economic Development Fayyaz Ismail.
Backlash from Fellow Maldivians
The anti-India remarks by Maldivian leaders also drew flak from their own countrymen, who expressed their dismay and disapproval of their actions. Many Maldivians took to social media to voice their support for India and said that they were ashamed and embarrassed by the behavior of their leaders. Some Maldivians also apologized to India and Modi and said that they did not share the views of Shahid and Nasheed. Some Maldivians also thanked India for its contributions and cooperation in various fields, such as health, education, infrastructure, and defense. Some Maldivians also said that they welcomed and appreciated Indian tourists and investors and that they hoped that the boycott campaign would not affect the bilateral ties between the two countries.
Many Indians Cancel Trips and Bookings
The boycott campaign, however, seems to have had a noticeable effect on the tourism industry of the Maldives, which is one of the main sources of income and employment for the island nation. According to some reports, many Indians have canceled their trips and bookings to Maldives and opted for other destinations, such as Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Seychelles, and Thailand. Some travel agents and tour operators have also reported a decline in inquiries and demand for Maldives packages and said that they were offering discounts and incentives to attract customers. Some hoteliers and resort owners have also expressed their concern over the loss of business and revenue and said that they hoped that the situation would improve soon.
Soil from Landfills Used to Build Highways
Another issue that has added to the friction between India and Maldives is the use of soil from landfills in India to build highways in Maldives. According to some reports, Maldives has been importing soil from India, which is extracted from landfills and waste dumps, and using it to construct roads and bridges in the island nation. Some environmentalists and activists have raised questions over the quality and safety of the soil and said that it could pose health and ecological risks to Maldives and its people. Some Indians have also criticized the practice and said that it was an insult to India and its soil and that Maldives should not use India’s garbage to build its infrastructure.
Impact on Tourism and Economy
The diplomatic row and the boycott campaign could have a significant impact on the tourism and economy of Maldives, which are already struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. According to some estimates, India is the second-largest source of tourists for Maldives, after China, and accounts for about 20% of the total arrivals. India is also one of the largest investors and donors to the Maldives and has provided loans, grants, and projects worth billions of dollars to the island nation. The souring of relations and the reduction of visitors and investments from India could affect the growth and development of Maldives, and hamper its recovery and resilience.
Govt Mulls Easing Norms to Boost Rooftop Solar
In an attempt to mitigate the impact of the boycott campaign and diversify its energy sources, the Maldivian government is reportedly considering easing the norms and regulations for installing rooftop solar panels in the island nation. According to some sources, the government is planning to introduce a net metering scheme, which would allow consumers to sell excess electricity generated from solar panels to the grid, and reduce their bills. The government is also planning to provide subsidies and incentives to encourage the adoption of rooftop solar systems and reduce the dependence on diesel and other fossil fuels. The government hopes that the move will promote green and clean energy and reduce the carbon footprint and emissions of Maldives.
Local Ship Cover May Get an India Club Flavour
Another measure that the Maldivian government is contemplating to improve its relations with India and boost its economy is to join the India Club, a regional maritime insurance initiative launched by India in 2020. The India Club is a platform that provides affordable and reliable insurance coverage to ships and vessels operating in the Indian Ocean region and protects them from piracy, terrorism, and other risks. The India Club is open to all countries in the region and aims to enhance maritime security and cooperation. The Maldivian government is reportedly interested in joining the India Club and hopes that it would help to lower its insurance costs and increase its trade and commerce with India and other countries.