Controversy Between India and Maldives: A Look into the Geopolitical Agenda

In January 2024, Prime Minister Modi shared some pictures from Lakshadweep on his social media handles. Though there was no direct mention of Maldives in these pictures, certain politicians in the Maldivian government reacted in a way that strained the friendship between the two countries. The controversy escalated to the point where the hashtag #BoycottMaldives started trending on social media.

Controversy Between India and Maldives
_______Controversy Between India and Maldives

The Controversial Ministers

The three ministers in the Maldivian government who sparked the controversy were Mariyam Shiuna, Malsha Shareef, and Abdullah Mahzoom Majid. Their comments about India and Prime Minister Modi seemed to stem from insecurity. Mariyam referred to PM Modi as “a puppet of Israel” on Twitter, while her colleagues accused him of trying to challenge the tourism industry in the Maldives. Mahzoom Majid made hateful comments about India and stereotyped Indians based on cultural misconceptions.

The Social Media Conflict

The comments made by these ministers led to a conflict on social media. Indian users started canceling their flight and hotel bookings, prompting the Maldivian government to realize the seriousness of the situation. The Maldivian Foreign Ministry later clarified that the ministers’ opinions were personal and did not represent the views of the government. The government subsequently suspended the three ministers.

The Geopolitical Agenda

However, the controversy between Maldives and Lakshadweep goes beyond a mere social media war. It is a result of a larger geopolitical agenda. Maldives heavily relies on tourism, with 28% of its GDP and 90% of its tax revenue coming from this sector. India is the top country in terms of the number of tourists visiting Maldives. Besides tourism, India and Maldives have a strategic alliance and military cooperation.

India-Maldives Relations

India has played a significant role in initiatives like SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and has provided military assistance to the Maldives. India’s military presence in the Maldives helps in preventing terrorism and conducting search and rescue operations. However, this military presence has become a controversial issue in Maldivian politics.

Internal Politics of Maldives

Maldives transitioned from a dictatorship to a multi-party democracy in 2008. The country’s foreign policy towards India changed when the Progressive Party of Maldives came into power in 2013. They distanced themselves from India and strengthened ties with China. Under China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Maldives received significant investments but also fell into a debt trap. The opposition parties in Maldives opposed India’s military presence and made “India Out” a prominent issue during the elections. The recent change in government has further strained India-Maldives relations.

Hateful Politics and Its Consequences

The controversy between India and Maldives is primarily driven by internal politics. Some Maldivian politicians use the “India Out” sentiment to incite their citizens and gain votes. This situation highlights the harmful effects of hateful politics on a country. Such politicians exist worldwide and spread hatred against various communities, religions, or countries, often misleading people with fear.

The Future of India-Maldives Relations

Controversy Between India and Maldives
______Controversy Between India and Maldives

The future of India-Maldives relations depends on the political landscape in Maldives. If the pro-India party comes back into power, the stance towards India can change again. Regardless of the political situation, promoting Indian tourism is always a positive step. However, it is crucial to ensure that local biodiversity and the livelihoods of the local population are not sacrificed for tourism.

By understanding the complex dynamics of the controversy between India and Maldives, we can appreciate the underlying geopolitical agenda and work towards fostering better relationships between nations.

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