Amid the row over the distasteful remarks by Maldivian Ministers and Government officials against Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his recent visit to Lakshadweep, Indian travel company EaseMyTrip on January 10, reiterated its stand to suspend all bookings to the island nation from January 8.
In an official release titled ‘Nation First, Business Later’, the travel company stated, “We are immensely proud of India’s stunning beaches. Our country boasts a vast 7,500-kilometer coastline, featuring the wonders of Lakshadweep, the Andamans, Goa, Kerala, etc.”
“We have taken a stand in response to the recent inappropriate and unprovoked remarks by multiple Maldivian Ministers about India, its citizens and our Hon’ble PM. Starting January 8th, we have indefinitely suspended all travel bookings to the Maldives. For us, our nation takes precedence over profits,” the firm added.
“Your support on social media is a reflection of our shared love for the nation. Let’s stay united in this journey,” it stated further. Lakshadweep came into the spotlight after Prime Minister Modi shared delightful images from his visit to the Union Territory on January 22 and called for harnessing beach tourism in the island cluster.
He shared several images from the virgin beaches of Lakshadweep, including an ‘exhilarating experience’ of him trying his hand at snorkelling. However, in a social media post that was deleted later, Maldivian Deputy Minister of Youth Empowerment, Mariyam Shiuna, made a mocking and disrespectful reference to PM Modi’s visit to the Indian island cluster.
Amid an outpouring of anger on social media over the disparaging references to PM Modi, with #BoycottMaldives a top trend across online forums, leading faces from the Indian film industry as well as top celebrities came out in support of the call to promote beach tourism in Lakshadweep and elsewhere. In the face of the online furore, the Maldivian Government distanced itself from the remarks against PM Modi.
Maldivian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Moosa Zameer, said such remarks against foreign leaders are ‘unacceptable’ and do not reflect the official position of the Government. However, taking strong exception to the remarks, New Delhi summoned the Maldivian envoy and registered a strong protest.
The envoy was pictured arriving at the office of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in the South Block and leaving some time later. According to data released by the Maldivian Tourism Ministry earlier, Indians accounted for the most number of visits to the archipelago last year.
Media reports quoting figures released by the Tourism Ministry in the Maldives, earlier, stated that Indians logged the most number of visits to the country in 2023 with 2,09,198 arrivals, followed by Russia in the second place with 2,09,146 arrivals and China in third with 1,87,118 arrivals.
Even in 2022, Indians accounted for the largest number of visits to the Maldives, with 2,40,000 arrivals. Russia followed closely in the second place with 198,000 arrivals while Britain ranked third with over 1,77,000 arrivals.
(with inputs from ANI)