Lakshadweep Finds Place In Union Budget In Big Message After Row With Maldives

The Union Territory of Lakshadweep, a 36-island archipelago, was in news in January after PM Modi posted stunning pictures from his visit, which some ministers of the Maldives reacted to with derogatory comments

PM Modi was in Lakshadweep in January and had posted pictures from his trip Photo: X/Narendramodi

Lakshadweep islands, which had hit headlines last month after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit, found mention in Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's Union Budget 2024 speech as well on Thursday as she spoke about tourism infrastructure.

The Union Territory of Lakshadweep, 36-island archipelago off Kerala coast and in between the Arabian Sea to the west and the Laccadive Sea, was in news in January after PM Modi posted stunning pictures on social media from his visit, which made people compare its pristine beaches to the Maldives.

A row erupted on social media when a minister and some other leaders in the Maldives used derogatory remarks against Prime Minister Modi after he posted glimpses of him on the beach in Lakshadweep.

Lakshadweep's mention in the Union Budget looks like a big message by the India amid the row with Maldives, the island nation which currently has a pro-China government and whose president has shown signs of hostility towards New Delhi several times.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday said projects for port connectivity, tourism infrastructure and amenities will be taken up "on our islands, including Lakshadweep" to address the "emerging fervour" for domestic tourism in the country.

While presenting the interim Union Budget, she also said "our economic strength has made the country an attractive destination for business and conference tourism".

PM Modi's visit and the subsequent diplomatic row with Maldives had triggered massive interest over Lakshadweep, making it the ninth most searched word on Google in India on Wednesday, January 4.

Sitharaman, in her budget speech, said the Indian middle class also now "aspires to travel and explore". Tourism, including spiritual tourism, has tremendous opportunities for local entrepreneurship, she added.

"States will be encouraged to take up comprehensive development of iconic tourist centres, branding and marketing them at global scale. A framework for rating of the centres based on quality of facilities and services will be established," the finance minister said.

"To address the emerging fervour for domestic tourism, projects for port connectivity, infrastructure and amenities will be taken up on our islands, including Lakshadweep. This will help in generating employment also," the Union minister said.

(with PTI inputs)