PM Modi Controversial Lakshadweep Visit Sparks Outrage and Opposition from Maldives’ Social Media and Government Officials
In recent days, a seemingly innocuous series of social media posts by Indian PM Modi about his visit to Lakshadweep has escalated into a full-blown diplomatic and social media controversy. The aftermath has revealed a complex web of tensions between India and the Maldives, with offensive comments, accusations, and the resurfacing of anti-India sentiments. This article aims to dissect the events, explore the roots of discontent, and shed light on the broader implications for bilateral relations.
The Trigger: PM Modi’s Lakshadweep Posts
PM Modi’s posts promoting Lakshadweep’s tourism became the epicenter of the storm. While the content of his statements did not explicitly mention the Maldives or any other island nation, a chain reaction unfolded on social media.
PM Modi’s posts on social media, praising the scenic beauty of Lakshadweep islands and encouraging tourism, were intended to boost domestic travel. However, the unintended consequence was a social media war between Maldivian politicians, government officials, and Indian social media users.
In an official statement, PM Modi did not reference the Maldives or any other island nation, keeping the focus on promoting Lakshadweep. Yet, the response from Maldivian quarters was swift and unexpected.
Maldivian Response: Offense and Accusations
Maldivian social media users, including Mariyam Shiuna, Deputy Minister of Youth Empowerment, Information, and Arts, responded with offensive, racist, and xenophobic comments. Some went as far as accusing India of launching a campaign against tourism in the Maldives. The situation worsened as high-ranking officials in President Mohamed Muizzu’s government echoed and shared derogatory content, fueling a virtual war between Maldivian and Indian social media users.
Accusations Against India: A Competition for Tourists
Maldivian social media users accused India of attempting to compete with the Maldives as a tropical vacation destination. The campaign to promote Lakshadweep was perceived by some as delusional, leading to a flurry of racist remarks against Indians and Indian tourists. This, despite official figures revealing that Indian tourists consistently rank among the top visitors to the Maldives, making up the largest group in 2023.
Roots of Anti-India Sentiments in the Maldives
Anti-India sentiments in the Maldives are not new, with the ‘India Out’ campaign gaining traction in 2020 and evolving into a visible political stance by the second half of 2021. Critics of the Ibrahim Mohamed Solih government, including former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom, actively supported the campaign. The Muizzu government, in power since November 2023, has continued this trend by focusing on closer ties with China and negotiating the withdrawal of Indian soldiers stationed in the Maldives.
Criticism and Concerns Within the Maldives
Despite the provocative social media posts, not all within the Maldives support the government’s stance. Prominent figures, including Ahmed Faris Maumoon and former President Mohamed Nasheed, condemned the derogatory comments. Some criticized the lack of diplomatic finesse among certain officials, suggesting that inexperienced leaders may be contributing to the deterioration of bilateral relations.
Maldives Government’s Response and Cyber Attack
In response to the escalating situation, the Maldives’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement distancing the government from the derogatory remarks while emphasizing the importance of responsible freedom of expression. However, the statement did not fully satisfy critics, and concerns grew after reports of a suspected cyber attack targeting government websites. Political parties in the Opposition and the Maldives National Party condemned the racist comments, urging the government to take action.
Indian Response and #ExploreIndianIslands Campaign
As a response to the anti-India sentiments, Indian social media users vowed to boycott Maldivian tourism. Bollywood celebrities and sports figures initiated a coordinated ‘Visit Lakshadweep’ campaign to counteract the negativity. Actor Akshay Kumar expressed surprise at the unprovoked hate via the PM Modi‘s posts , urging Indians to support domestic tourism with the hashtag #ExploreIndianIslands.
The controversy ignited when prominent Maldivian social media users responded with offensive, racist, xenophobic, and derogatory comments directed not only at Indians in general but also at PM Modi. Mariyam Shiuna, Maldives’ Deputy Minister of Youth Empowerment, Information, and Arts, led the charge with comments questioning PM Modi integrity and even comparing India to cow dung.
Local Maldivian news outlets exacerbated the situation by running sensational headlines claiming that India had initiated an anti-Maldives tourism campaign. This narrative quickly gained traction on social media, leading to comparisons between the Maldives and Lakshadweep and triggering insults against India.
Navigating Diplomatic Waters
The unexpected escalation of social media tensions between India and the Maldives underscores the delicate nature of international relations in the digital age. While certain officials in the Maldives government may have fueled the controversy, it is essential to acknowledge the broader history of diplomatic ties and people-to-people connections between the two nations. As the social media storm triggered by PM Modi’s posts on Lakshadweep continues to ripple through India-Maldives relations, the diplomatic landscape faces further complexities.
This continued exploration seeks to delve deeper into the aftermath of the controversy, examining internal and external reactions, the government’s responses, and the potential long-term impact on the ties between these neighboring nations.The incident serves as a reminder of the potential impact of inflammatory rhetoric on bilateral relations, and the hope remains that cooler heads will prevail, allowing both countries to navigate these diplomatic waters with resilience and mutual respect.