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Apologise to India and PM Modi, Maldives Opposition tells President Mohammed Muizzu (WATCH)

Maldivian Opposition Jumhooree Party leader, Qasim Ibrahim, has called on President Mohammed Muizzu to formally apologize to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the people of India for his comments following the China trip.

Apologise to India and PM Modi, Maldives Opposition tells President Mohammed Muizzu (WATCH)
First Published Jan 30, 2024, 4:09 PM IST

Amid diplomatic tensions between New Delhi and Malé, Maldives' Jumhooree Party leader Qasim Ibrahim has urged Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu to issue a formal apology to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the people of India. Ibrahim's statement comes in response to derogatory remarks made by three Maldivian politicians regarding India and Modi.

Also read: Amid diplomatic row, India drops to 5th place in Maldives tourism rankings after holding No.1 spot in 2023

"I call on President Muizzu to formally apologise to the Indian government and Prime Minister Modi regarding his remarks after the China trip," Ibrahim said on Tuesday.

In his statement, Ibrahim voiced his concerns about the worsening relations between India and Maldives while making his comments. "Regarding any country, especially a neighbouring one, we should not speak in a way that affects the relationship. We have an obligation to our state that must be considered," Ibrahim said.

The Jumhooree Party leader also voiced apprehensions regarding the potential annulment of a Presidential Decree, issued by Muizzu's predecessor Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, which prohibited the current president's contentious 'India Out' campaign.

"Now, Yameen (Solih's predecessor) is questioning why Muizzu, who participated with him in the India Out Campaign, has not nullified the Presidential Decree. The Decree should not be nullified, as it would only result in a loss to the nation. That cannot be done. I would tell Muizzu that it should not be done," he said.

The recent diplomatic row has cast a shadow over Maldives' status as a preferred travel destination for Indians, with the fallout stemming from derogatory remarks made against Prime Minister Narendra Modi by three Maldivian cabinet ministers following his recent visit to Lakshadweep.

Official data from the Maldives Ministry of Tourism reveals a significant shift in tourist demographics, with Indians slipping from the top position to fifth place over the past three weeks amid escalating diplomatic tensions.

The data highlights a notable decline in the number of Indian visitors to the island nation, marking a stark contrast to previous years where over 2 lakh Indians annually frequented Maldives, making them the largest tourist group post-COVID 19 pandemic.

Also read: Maldives Opposition to seek impeachment of President Mohd Muizzu

As per recent statistics, Maldives welcomed over 1.74 lakh tourists until January 28 this year, with only 13,989 arrivals from India. The top positions were occupied by Russia, with 18,561 tourists, followed by Italy (18,111), China (16,529), and the UK (14,588).

Germany secured the sixth position, trailed by the USA, France, Poland, and Switzerland. In 2023, Maldives saw over 17 lakh tourists, with the highest number hailing from India (2,09,198), followed closely by Russians (2,09,146) and Chinese (1,87,118).

In 2022, the number of Indian tourists visiting Maldives exceeded 2.4 lakh, while in 2021, it surpassed 2.11 lakh. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Maldives remained one of the few countries open to international tourists, attracting nearly 63,000 Indian visitors during that period.

India ranked fifth in terms of tourist arrivals in the Maldives in 2018, with 90,474 visitors. By 2019, India had climbed to the second position, with 1.66 lakh Indians visiting the island nation.

The recent diplomatic tensions have prompted many social media users to cancel their planned trips to Maldives, with the hashtag "Boycott Maldives" trending on various platforms for several days this month. In solidarity with India, EaseMyTrip, an online travel aggregator, announced the suspension of all flight bookings to the Maldives on its website, joining the 'boycott campaign'.

In response to the criticism directed at Prime Minister Modi's post on X following his visit to Lakshadweep, the Maldives government took action by suspending three of its deputy ministers. These ministers had inferred that the visit aimed to promote Lakshadweep as an alternative tourist destination to the Maldives.

The Maldivian foreign ministry clarified that while individuals are entitled to their personal views, derogatory remarks made on social media platforms against foreign leaders do not reflect the official stance of the country.

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