Maldives Tourism industry ‘strongly condemns’ derogatory comments by its Ministers on PM Modi

Soon after the remarks against PM Modi went viral, hundreds of social media users, including celebrities, protested with calls to boycott tourism in Maldives and instead explore domestic destinations.

Updated - January 11, 2024 11:41 am IST

Published - January 09, 2024 02:44 pm IST - Male

According to the Maldives Tourism Ministry statistics, over 17 lakh tourists visited the island nation in 2023, out of which more than 2,09,198 visitors were Indians followed by Russians (2,09,146) and China (1,87,118). File

According to the Maldives Tourism Ministry statistics, over 17 lakh tourists visited the island nation in 2023, out of which more than 2,09,198 visitors were Indians followed by Russians (2,09,146) and China (1,87,118). File | Photo Credit: AFP

Facing a backlash following the diplomatic row between India and the Maldives, the island nation's top tourism body has strongly condemned the derogatory comments made by some Deputy Ministers of the country against India and Prime Minister Modi after he visited Lakshadweep.

“The Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) strongly condemns the derogatory comments made by some Deputy Ministers on social media platforms, directed towards the Prime Minister of India, His Excellency Narendra Modi as well as the people of India,” MATI said in a statement in Male on Monday.

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The condemnation comes two days after a full-blown backlash directed at the Maldives following the derogatory remarks against India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on social media by three Deputy Ministers at the Maldives Youth Ministry after he posted photos and video on X after he visited the pristine Lakshadweep Islands on India’s west coast on Saturday.

“India has also been a consistent and significant contributor to the Tourism Industry of the Maldives. A contributor that has greatly assisted our recovery efforts during COVID-19, right after we re-opened our borders, since then, India has continued to remain as one of the top markets for the Maldives,” it said.

Calling India “one of the closest neighbours and allies,” the MATI statement said, “India has always been a first responder to various crises throughout our history and we are immensely grateful to the close relationship that the Government as well as people of India have maintained with us.”

According to the Maldives Tourism Ministry statistics, over 17 lakh tourists visited the island nation in 2023, out of which more than 2,09,198 visitors were Indians followed by Russians (2,09,146) and China (1,87,118).

The number of Indian visitors was more than 2.4 lakh in 2022 while over 2.11 lakh Indians flew to the Maldives in 2021. The Maldives was also one of the few countries open for international tourists during the pandemic and nearly 63,000 Indians visited that country during that period.

“Deeply concerned…” Former Maldives Ministers speak on intensifying India-Maldives row | Video Credit: ANI

Soon after the remarks against Mr. Modi went viral, hundreds of social media users, including celebrities, protested with calls to boycott tourism in Maldives and instead explore domestic destinations. Several social media users and even some travel companies claimed Indians are cancelling their scheduled trip to the Maldives following the diplomatic row.

Expressing sincere wish that the close relationship between the two nations “endures for generations to come,” the Association hoped “and as such, we refrain from actions or speech that may have any negative impact on our good relationship.”

Earlier, the Maldivian Government had on Sunday suspended the three Deputy Ministers, and followed it up on Monday by informing India's High Commissioner Munu Muhawar that the derogatory remarks made by those three do not represent its views and reaffirmed Maldives’ continued support for its neighbour.

Also Read | Maldives, China sign 20 agreements after Muizzu-Xi meeting

The meeting came after India summoned the Maldivian envoy in New Delhi, Ibrahim Shaheeb, on Monday to the External Affairs Ministry and conveyed strong concern over those derogatory remarks by the three Ministers.

Incidentally, despite all the social media hype, a cruise liner from India arrived in the Maldives on Monday “with a substantial number of tourists,” marking the first cruise liner visit this year, state-run PSM News reported.

The cruise liner originating from Kochi in Kerala accommodated around 2,000 tourists and had previously made stops in Mumbai and Goa before reaching the Maldives, it said quoting Maldives Association of Yacht Agents (MAYA).

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