Maldives vs Lakshadweep: Ministers Sacked, Envoys Summoned As Row Explodes | Key Points

PM Modi went to Lakshadweep last week and posted pics, which some Maldives ministers reacted to with controversial posts. Read on to know the latest in the diplomatic row

PM Modi was in Lakshadweep last week and later posted pictures from his trip

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Lakshadweep trip and the stunning pictures posted by him of the archipelago seem to have rubbed the Maldives up the wrong way, with some ministers of the island nation venting their annoyance through social media posts that have sparked massive outrage in India and also led to their suspension.

The entire controversy started after three deputy ministers in the Maldives put up "derogatory" posts, criticising PM Modi for his Lakshadweep pictures, suggesting that it was an attempt to project the Union Territory as an alternative tourist destination to the Maldives.

The social media posts sparked massive outrage and reactions from netizens, political leaders, celebrities and even the Maldivian government which suspended its three ministers over the same.

In the latest development amid the escalating diplomatic row, India on Monday summoned the Maldives High Commissioner, who was seen visiting the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi this morning. This move Maldives responded to by summoning the Indian envoy.

India-Maldives Diplomatic Row | Key Points

-What Three Maldives Ministers Say & The Outrage It Sparked 

Maldives ministers Mariyam Shiuna, Malsha Shareef and Mahzoom Majid, who are now suspended, reacted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s photographs from Lakshadweep after they went viral on social media and stirred up a hornet's nest. 

As PM Modi's 'vocal-for-local' push gained momentum with his pictures, many promoted the 36-island archipelago over the Maldives as a tourist destination. Amid this, Maldivian MP Zahid Rameez said, “The move is great. However, the idea of competing with us is delusional. How can they provide the service we offer? How can they be so clean? The permanent smell in the rooms will be the biggest downfall.”

The three MPs, all of whom are part of the Youth Ministry, joined the social media spat over Lakshadweep vs Maldives and got carried away in slamming India and PM Modi.

Shiuna, the Deputy Minister at the Maldives Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Information, and Art, called PM Modi a “clown” and a “puppet”. Shiuna, who is also the spokesperson for the Male City Council, later deleted her social media posts.

Malsha Shareef’s posts on Modi were also derogatory, while Mahzoom Majid flagged the “challenges India faced in competing with Maldives in beach tourism” and tagged PM Modi in a post that spoke about open defecation in India.

Most of these posts have now been deleted.

Apart from netizens, BJP leaders and Union ministers, Several cine stars like Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar and cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar were among the celebrities who appealed to people to visit "Indian islands" and coastal destinations.

Israel also joined the #Lakshadweep trend with the country's embassy posting pictures on X of the Union Territory, showing its "enchanting allure".

-How The Maldives Reacted 

As outrage over the Maldives ministers' remarks grew, the Maldivian foreign ministry said in a statement on Sunday that the government is aware of "derogatory remarks" on social media platforms against foreign leaders and that the personal views do not represent its position.

"The government of Maldives is aware of derogatory remarks on social media platforms against foreign leaders and high-ranking individuals. These opinions are personal and do not represent the views of the government of Maldives," the Maldivian foreign ministry said in a statement.

"It said the government believes that the freedom of expression should be exercised in a democratic and responsible manner, and in ways that do not spread hatred, negativity, and hinder close relationships between the Maldives and its international partners.

"Moreover, the relevant authorities of the Government will not hesitate to take action against those who make such derogatory remarks," it said.

Maldives Minister of Foreign Affairs Moosa Zameer also said that the remarks against foreign leaders were "unacceptable" and do not reflect the official position of the Maldives government.

-Maldivian Ministers Get Suspended

Several Maldivian media outlets, quoting officials, reported on Sunday that deputy ministers in the youth ministry, Malsha Shareef, Mariyam Shiuna and Abdulla Mahzoom Majid, have been suspended over their posts. T

The Maldivian government on Sunday reportedly suspended three deputy ministers for derogatory social media posts against Prime Minister Narendra Modi following a backlash with New Delhi strongly raising the matter with Male and the island nation's top opposition leaders slamming the ruling establishment over the row.

"Authorities in Maldives on Sunday suspended three deputy ministers who have come under fire for their posts on 'X' in which they are seen verbally abusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi and India," the Atoll Times reported.

-India, Maldives Summon High Commissioners  

In New Delhi, a day after the Indian High Commission in Male strongly raised the matter with the Maldivian foreign ministry, Maldivian High Commissioner Ibrahim Shaheeb on Monday visited the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi’s South Block after a summon was sent to him by the authorities.


This move was responded to by the Maldives with a summon to the Indian High Commissioner hours later. 

"High Commissioner Munu Mahawar had a pre-arranged meeting with H.E. Dr Ali Naseer Mohamed, Ambassador at Large, at MoFA, Maldives, today to discuss bilateral issues," Indian Embassy's X portal said in a post on Monday.

It is learnt that the Maldivian government informed India's High Commissioner Munu Muhawar that the derogatory remarks made by three now-suspended deputy ministers against Prime Minister Narendra Modi do not represent its views.

Amid the backlash, there were also posts on social media claiming that some Indians are cancelling their scheduled trip to the Maldives, the island nation that depends heavily on tourism.


-Indian Travel Portal Cancels Flight Bookings To Maldives

In a major move amid the boycott Maldives campaign, travel portal EaseMyTrip announced its decision to suspend all flight bookings to the island nation.

Nishant Pitti, co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Indian online travel company, took to microblogging platform X and stated, “In solidarity with our nation, @EaseMyTrip has suspended all Maldives flight bookings.”

EaseMyTrip, headquartered in New Delhi, was founded by Nishant Pitti, Rikant Pitti, and Prashant Pitti in 2008.

In a post on January 4, Prashant Pitti had written, "Water & beaches of Lakshadweep are as good as Maldives/Seychelles We at @EaseMyTrip will come up with crazy special-offers to promote this pristine destination that our PM @narendramodi has recently visited!" He attached #ChaloLakshadweep to his post.


Another top travel portal in India, Make My Trip, claimed on X that it observed a whopping 3400 per cent increase in on-platform searches for Lakshadweep ever since PM Modi's visit. 

"This interest in Indian beaches has inspired us to launch a 'Beaches of India' campaign on the platform with offers and discounts to encourage Indian travellers to explore country’s stunning beaches. Keep watching this space!" an X post by Make My Trip read.

-Former Maldives Ministers Slam MPs For Remarks On Modi

Former foreign minister Abdulla Shahid also described the remarks against PM Modi by his country's minister as "reprehensible and odious". "I call on the government to reprimand these officials. Public figures must maintain decorum. They must accept that they are no longer social media activists and that they are now entrusted with the responsibility of protecting the interests of the people and the country," he said.


"India is a time-tested friend and an unwavering ally. They have historically been the first to respond in our time of need. Our close relationship has been bound by mutual respect, history, culture and strong people-to-people relations," Shahid said.

Former sports minister Ahmed Mahloof too expressed concern over the row.

"I am deeply worried about the escalating situation regarding the comments about our closest neighbour," he said.

"Indians boycotting the Maldives would have a huge impact on our economy.  It would be hard for us to recover from such a campaign. I call on the government to swiftly take serious action to solve the issue as soon as possible," he said.


-PM's Lakshadweep Trip A Subtle Response to Maldives Hostility 

Pictures posted by PM Modi of relatively unexplored Lakshadweep were seen as India's answer to Maldives which last December refused to renew the Hydrographic Survey Agreement made with India which was signed in June 2019 during PM Modi’s visit to the island country.

Mohamed Muizzu, the pro-China leader who won the Maldives presidential election in October 2023, had been seeking to remove Indian troops from 10 island nations even before taking power. And after coming to power, he did not change his stand.

Muizzu, 45, leads the People's National Congress, a party that presided over an influx of Chinese loans when it last held power in the country, known for its luxury beach resorts and celebrity tourists. Notably, Muizzu is currently on a visit to China.


With the new government leaning towards China, Maldives' hostility of late has raised concerns around India’s national security.

PM Modi's viral photos of Lakshadweep's white sand and blue water beaches got Indians massively searching about the archipelago, which is a much cheaper travel destination but as beautiful as the Maldives that depends heavily on tourism.