Diplomatic Fallout: Maldives Ministers Suspended Over Derogatory Remarks on PM Modi Sparks Tourism Boycott and Celebrity Backlash

The Maldives government has taken swift action, suspending three of its ministers, Mariyam Shiuna, Malsha, and Hassan Zihan, due to their derogatory remarks against India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The comments surfaced after PM Modi’s visit to Lakshadweep, with Minister Shiuna, in a now-deleted post, referring to him as a ‘clown’ and a ‘puppet of Israel.’ The Maldives government spokesperson, Ibrahim Khaleel, confirmed the suspension, stating that all officials responsible for the remarks have been suspended from their posts immediately.

The controversy escalated on social media, leading to a significant impact on tourism and diplomatic relations between India and the Maldives. Several updates highlight the repercussions of the incident:

  1. Flight Bookings Suspended: EaseMyTrip CEO Nishant Pitti announced the suspension of all flight bookings to the Maldives. The company has also endorsed the ‘Visit Lakshadweep’ campaign, emphasizing the beauty of Indian islands as alternatives.
  2. Tourist Cancellations: Over 8,000 hotel bookings and 2,500 flight tickets have been canceled by Indian tourists. This has raised concerns among tour operators, with predictions of a noticeable decline in Maldives travel within the next 20-25 days.
  3. Social Media Boycott: The hashtag ‘BoycottMaldives’ gained traction on social media, with many calling for a boycott of the Maldives as a tourism destination. Indian islands, including Lakshadweep, are being promoted as alternatives.
  4. Celebrity Endorsements: Bollywood celebrities, including John Abraham and Randeep Hooda, joined the online campaign, praising the beauty of Indian islands. Actor Akshay Kumar condemned the hateful remarks and urged people to support domestic tourism.
  5. Salman Khan’s Praise: Superstar Salman Khan commended PM Modi for his Lakshadweep visit, emphasizing the joy of such picturesque locations being within India.
  6. Government Distances Itself: The Maldivian government distanced itself from the derogatory remarks, stating that they are personal opinions and do not represent the government’s views. Action may be taken against those making such remarks.
  7. Former Leaders’ Criticism: Former Maldivian leaders, including President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and former foreign minister Abdullah Shahid, condemned the hateful language, emphasizing India’s longstanding friendship with the Maldives.
  8. Concerns for Economy: Former Maldivian minister Ahmed Mahloof expressed concern over the potential impact on the Maldivian economy, calling for swift government action to resolve the issue and avoid a long-lasting negative impact on relations with India.