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Maldives Government’s Suspension of Deputy Ministers

Context:

The Maldives government suspended three deputy ministers after they took to social media to make derogatory remarks against PM Modi.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Context Overview
  2. About Lakshadweep
  3. Significance of Lakshadweep for India
  4. Tourism Dependency in Maldives
  5. Challenges: Anti-India Sentiments in the Maldives

Context Overview

Trigger: Social Media War
  • It all commenced with a series of posts on X from the Indian Prime Minister, emphasizing tourism in Lakshadweep islands.
  • Shortly after PM Modi’s post, notable Maldivian social media users engaged in a contentious exchange, responding with offensive, racist, xenophobic, and derogatory comments.
    • These comments specifically targeted Indians in general and the Indian Prime Minister.
  • Notably, three Maldivian Ministers were among those participating in this social media confrontation.
Allegations Against India by Maldivian Social Media Users
  • A subsequent development unfolded as some Maldivian social media users accused India of attempting to rival their nation as a preferred tropical vacation destination for travelers.
    • These posts further fueled a surge of racist remarks against both Indians and Indian tourists who choose the Maldives as their travel destination.

About Lakshadweep

Introduction

  • India’s smallest Union Territory, Lakshadweep, is an archipelago consisting of 36 islands covering an area of 32 sq km.
  • It is a uni-district UT comprising 12 atolls, three reefs, five submerged banks, and ten inhabited islands.
  • The capital is Kavaratti, also serving as the principal town of the UT.

Geographical Location

  • Positioned between 8º – 12º 13″ North latitude and 71º – 74º East longitude, Lakshadweep lies 220 to 440 Kms away from the coastal city of Kochi.
    • The maritime boundary between the Maldives and Minicoy (India) runs through the Eight Degree Channel.
    • The Nine Degree Channel separates Minicoy from the main Lakshadweep archipelago.

Coral Atolls

  • The islands are predominantly coral atolls, characterized by coral reefs surrounding a lagoon.

Demography

  • As of the 2011 Census, Lakshadweep has a population of 64,429.
  • Over 93% of the indigenous population are Muslims, primarily adhering to the Shafi School of the Sunni Sect.
  • Malayalam is the predominant language, except on Minicoy where Mahl is spoken, written in Divehi script (also spoken in the Maldives).
  • The entire indigenous population is classified as Scheduled Tribes, with no Scheduled Castes in the Union Territory.

Climate

  • Lakshadweep experiences a tropical climate, characterized by warmth and humidity throughout the year.

Significance of Lakshadweep for India

Strategic Location

  • Lakshadweep’s proximity to major international shipping routes enhances India’s strategic maritime influence.
    • The Nine Degree Channel serves as a crucial passage for shipping between the Middle East, Europe, and Western Asia with Southeast Asia.

Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)

  • The islands contribute to India’s EEZ, providing rights over the exploration and use of marine resources in the surrounding waters.
    • Due to Lakshadweep’s proximity, India gains access to 20,000 square kilometers of sea, including fisheries, oil and gas exploration, and other economic activities.

Maritime Security

  • The Indian Navy and Coast Guard utilize the islands as a base for enhancing maritime security.

Economic Significance

  • The scenic beauty of Lakshadweep positions it as a notable tourist destination.
  • The islands contribute significantly to India’s fishery resources.

Biodiversity and Marine Life

  • The coral atolls and surrounding waters of Lakshadweep host diverse marine life, including coral reefs and various fish species.

Tourism Dependency in Maldives

  • The Maldives relies significantly on tourism, with the industry contributing to over 28 percent of its GDP.
  • Official figures from the Maldives’ government consistently place Indian tourists among the top ten nationalities visiting the island each year.
  • In 2023 alone, Indians constituted the largest group of tourists, totaling over 200,000 travelers, followed by tourists from Russia and China.

Challenges: Anti-India Sentiments in the Maldives

  • In 2020, the India Out campaign emerged initially as on-ground protests in the Maldives, later spreading extensively across social media platforms.
  • By the second half of 2021, it evolved into an active and visible political campaign.
  • Supporters of the campaign claimed it originated to protest what they perceived as Indian military presence in the country, actively targeting all aspects of India-Maldives bilateral relations.
  • In December 2023, during the COP28 climate summit, President Muizzu announced that the Indian government had agreed to withdraw its soldiers from the Maldives.
    • These soldiers were stationed in the country to operate and manage two helicopters and a Dornier aircraft provided to the Maldives by India.

-Source: The Hindu


February 2024
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