The Maldives government suspended three deputy ministers after they took to social media to make derogatory remarks against PM Modi.
GS II: International Relations
Dimensions of the Article:
- Context Overview
- About Lakshadweep
- Significance of Lakshadweep for India
- Tourism Dependency in Maldives
- Challenges: Anti-India Sentiments in the Maldives
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The islands are predominantly coral atolls, characterized by coral reefs surrounding a lagoon.
- 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.
- Lakshadweep experiences a tropical climate, characterized by warmth and humidity throughout the year.
Significance of Lakshadweep for India
- 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.
- The Indian Navy and Coast Guard utilize the islands as a base for enhancing maritime security.
- 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