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Indian tourists cancel Maldives vacation plans over ministers' derogatory remarks; check details

Maldivian ministers' disparaging remarks have prompted many Indian tourists to cancel their travel plans to the Maldives.

Indian tourists cancel Maldives vacation plans over ministers' derogatory remarks; check details AJR
First Published Jan 7, 2024, 11:51 AM IST

A large number of Indians took to social media to express their dissatisfaction over derogatory comments made by Maldivian ministers, particularly Zahid Rameez, a Council member of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), directed at Indians. Many have even cancelled their holiday plans to the Maldives.

Rameez's remarks, stemming from a post by X user Sinha showcasing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Lakshadweep, stirred outrage among netizens. The Prime Minister's post exhorted people to explore Lakshadweep and support the "vocal for local" initiative, triggering positive responses from users.

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However, Rameez's response on January 5 took a disparaging turn. He commented, belittling the notion of Lakshadweep competing with Maldives, casting doubts on the former's ability to offer equivalent services and cleanliness, and hinting at potential issues with room odours, sparking controversy and widespread backlash.

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Despite facing considerable criticism for his racist comments against Indians, Rameez chose not to retract or apologize for his statements. Instead, he portrayed himself as a victim and emphasized his identity as a Muslim, deflecting attention from the matter at hand.

This incident has led many disgruntled Indians to voice their discontent on social media, announcing the cancellation of their travel plans to the Maldives. Rameez's insensitive remarks and the lack of accountability on his part have triggered a significant backlash, with individuals expressing their unwillingness to support tourism in the Maldives. 

In recent months, diplomatic tensions between India and the Maldives have escalated, particularly since President Mohamed Muizzu assumed office in November last year. The new president's signals of a foreign policy shift, moving away from the previous "India first" approach to establishing closer ties with China, have intensified the strain.

Situated strategically in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives continues to play a crucial role in India's regional initiatives, such as 'SAGAR' (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and the 'Neighbourhood First Policy.' President Muizzu's upcoming visit to China, scheduled for January 8 to 12, has added fuel to the controversy surrounding the changing dynamics.

This visit, marking the president's first state visit since taking office, is widely perceived as a significant step towards fortifying ties with China. The shift in focus is evident not only in the choice of destination but also in prior visits to Turkey and the UAE, underscoring a deliberate approach before engaging with India.

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