Lakshadweep is in direct competition with Maldives now. This came after some reports and social media users hinted that there was more to the promotion of Lakshadweep by Prime Minister Narendra Modi than what meets the eye.
The saga began when PM Modi shared images from his visit to Lakshadweep on January 4. And, the abuses surfaced online, as soon as the Prime Minister was seen trying snorkelling and enjoying “moments of pure bliss” on one of the pristine beaches of Lakshadweep.
PM Modi shared images that showed him taking a stroll and sitting on the white sands. He also shared a few snippets of coral reefs and marine life, while he snorkelled. He attributed the island group as “a timeless legacy of traditions and a testament to the spirit of its people”. PM Modi’s Lakshadweep visit was part of his visit to South India. He toured Kerala and Tamil Nadu and then reached Lakshadweep.
How the Lakshadweep vs Maldives row snowballed?
A picture is worth a thousand words. Soon, people began reading between those words and lines. Several social media users linked PM Modi’s revealing “India’s best-kept secret” and his time in Lakshadweep to the Maldives. Reports suggested that it could be because of the Maldivian government’s cosying up to China.
India, which views the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) as a strategic space, has long been wary of Chinese presence in the region and its involvement with the new ruling dispensation in the Maldives. In the polls in September, China-leaning Mohammad Muizzu defeated Mohammad Solih who was pro-India.
All the talk about the Maldivian link to Lakshadweep’s promotion remained as reports and online chatter. New Delhi never said anything to suggest any Maldivian link. However, some politicians from the Maldives jumped onto the online chatter and started using abusive language for PM Modi and Indians, in general.
Anti-India comments on PM’s Lakshadweep tweet
Maldives Deputy Minister of Youth Empowerment, Mariyam Shiuna called PM Modi a “clown” and a “puppet of Israel” on X (Twitter). Over multiple posts, Mariyam Shiuna repeatedly carried on with her derogatory rants. It’s a different story that, after facing massive blowback, the minister deleted her posts.
Maldivian MP Zahid Rameez, who jumped into the belittle-India campaign, said India “competing” with the Maldives in terms of tourism was “delusional”. Worse, he said there was a “permanent smell in the rooms [in India]”.
Rameez shared an India Today Digital report on the significance of PM Modi’s Lakshadweep visit and accused India of “copying a small economy like Sri Lanka” to make money.
“The move is great. However, the idea of competing with us is delusional. How can they provide the service we offer? How can they be so clean? The permanent smell in the rooms will be the biggest downfall,” Rameez said.
His remarks angered several Indians, marking the start of a massive online counter-offensive. Both celebrities and the ordinary people joined forces.
How Celebs showed strength to Lakshadweep?
By Sunday (January 7), several Indian celebrities asked their fans to “explore Indian islands”, suggesting that Lakshadweep and other Indian locales were possible alternatives to the Maldives. The celebrities included Akshay Kumar, Salman Khan, Kangana Ranaut, John Abraham and Shraddha Kapoor among others.
“…We are good to our neighbours but, Why should we tolerate such unprovoked hate? I’ve visited the Maldives many times and always praised it, but dignity first. Let us decide to #ExploreIndianIslands and support our own tourism,” Akshay Kumar tweeted. He highlighted that India sends the most number of tourists to the Maldives.
While the row intensified online. Vir Das a comedian and an actor made a witty tweet on the matter which made millions laugh about it. It read, “Firstly, happy Lakshadweep is getting some love! Secondly, Somewhere in the Maldives, right now, is an Indian celebrity/influencer, who didn’t eat carbs for two weeks, took the best vacation photos ever, and is TERRIFIED to post them :-)”
How common men joined forces with Lakshadweep?
Ordinary Indians soon joined the pushback, using hashtags like #ExploreIndianIslands and #BoycottMaldives against the “unprovoked hate” from Maldivians.
Many reactions poured in soon, suggesting cancellations of their Maldives holiday plans following the remarks and subsequent row. By Sunday (January 7), Maldivian officials and former President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih condemned the anti-India hatred spewed by politicians of the Maldives.
“I condemn the use of hateful language against #India by Maldivian government officials on social media. India has always been a good friend to Maldives, and we must not allow such callous remarks to negatively impact the age-old friendship between our two countries,” Solih posted.
Maldives got worried over the threat of cancellations of bookings by tourists from India. Former Maldives minister Ahmed Mahloof said Indians boycotting the tourist destination would have a huge impact on the island nation’s economy.
Maldives’ actions against errant leaders
All this while, the entire fight was playing out in cyberspace. The controversy, however, had become too big for the Maldives to not act. Finally, Male acted on Sunday (January 7), by suspending three Maldivian lawmakers.
The Maldivian Foreign Office “acknowledged the derogatory remarks on social media platforms against foreign leaders and high-ranking individuals”. Apart from the suspensions, the Maldivian government also reportedly schooled those involved. The cyber-battle that was being waged for more than three days now saw on-ground diplomatic action on Monday (January 8).
The Indian High Commissioner to the Maldives, Munu Mahawar, met Maldivian Foreign Ministry officials on Monday morning. Munu Mahawar’s visit to the Maldivian foreign office was a “pre-arranged visit” to lodge a strong-worded protest against the remarks.
A few hours after the visit, the External Affairs Ministry summoned Maldivian envoy Ibrahim Shaheeb to the South Block in New Delhi. The online battle has resulted in a “boycott Maldives” campaign and a diplomatic row on the ground.
India’s friends in the Maldives are hoping that the fallout from the controversy is limited and hoping that it doesn’t “negatively impact the age-old friendship between our two countries”. That is what people like former President Solih, who took Indo-Maldivian relations to a new high, along with PM Modi, hope for.
GOI remains committed to Lakshadweep
The PM was speaking after laying the foundation stone of development projects worth over Rs 1,150 crore in Agatti. The PM inaugurated the Kochi-Lakshadweep Islands Submarine Optical Fiber Connection (KLI – SOFC) project in a move to resolve the challenge of slow internet speed in the Union Territory.
He also inaugurated the Low-Temperature Thermal Desalination (LTTD) plant at Kadmat, which will produce 1.5 lakh litres of clean drinking water every day, and the Functional Household Tap Connections (FHTC) in all households of Agatti and Minicoy islands.
Other projects that were dedicated to the nation include the solar power plant at Kavaratti, which is the first-ever battery-backed solar power project of Lakshadweep.
The Prime Minister laid the foundation stone of the renovation of the Health Care facility in Kalpeni and the construction of five model Anganwadi Centres (Nand Ghars) in the five islands of Androth, Chetlat, Kadmat, Agatti and Minicoy.
Israel’s visionary investment in Lakshadweep
Amid the ongoing India-Maldives row over the derogatory remarks made by the now-suspended ministers of the island nation last week, Israel announced that it would commence the desalination program in the Union Territory (UT) of Lakshadweep starting Tuesday.
“We were in Lakshadweep last year upon the federal government’s request to initiate the desalination program. Israel is ready to commence working on this project tomorrow,” the Israeli embassy said in a post on Monday on the social media platform X (formerly Twitter).
While it did not mention anything about the controversy, the key West Asian ally of India, boasted about Lakshadweep’s scenic beauty and urged the people to pay their visits to the UT. “For those who are yet to witness the pristine and majestic underwater beauty of Lakshadweep Islands, here are a few pictures showing this island’s enchanting allure,” the post further added.
Travel agencies gain momentum amid the row
MakeMyTrip on January 8 said it has observed a 3,400% increase in on-platform searches for Lakshadweep ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the islands. “We have observed a 3400 per cent increase in on-platform searches for Lakshadweep ever since Honorable PM’s visit.
This interest in Indian beaches has inspired us to launch a ‘Beaches of India’ campaign on the platform with offers and discounts to encourage Indian travellers to explore country’s stunning beaches. Keep watching this space!,” MakeMyTrip said in a post on social media platform X.
Lakshadweep has emerged as a preferred tourist destination after Modi’s visit. A number of people started comparing the Indian island with globally sought-after beach destinations like Maldives and Seychelles. This came close on the heels of comments by Maldivian ministers against the Indian prime minister on social media, triggering a diplomatic row between the two nations.
Meanwhile, the Maldivian envoy to India was on Monday summoned to the external affairs ministry and was conveyed strong concern over remarks posted on social media against Prime Minister Narendra Modi by a number of ministers of the Maldives, sources said.
The government of the Maldives on January 7 suspended three deputy ministers for derogatory social media posts against Modi. The three deputy ministers criticised Modi for his post on ‘X’ following his visit to Lakshadweep, inferring that it was an attempt to project the Union Territory as an alternative tourist destination to the Maldives.
According to Maldivian media reports, deputy ministers in the youth ministry, Malsha Shareef, Mariyam Shiuna and Abdulla Mahzoom Majid, have been suspended over their posts. In New Delhi, official sources said the Indian high commission in Male strongly raised the matter with the Maldivian foreign ministry on January 7.
The disparaging remarks by the ministers have drawn flak in India, with many celebrities urging people on X to explore domestic tourist destinations instead of going to the Maldives.
Hospitality investments in Lakshadweep
Tata Group’s two resorts are slated to open in 2026 on the islands of Suheli and Kadmat in Lakshadweep – an Indian archipelago that has come into the spotlight after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit and subsequent tensions with the Maldives.
In January last year, the Indian Hotels Company, a subsidiary of Tata Group, announced the signing of two Taj-branded resorts in Lakshadweep. “The Greenfield projects are slated to open in 2026, and will be developed by IHCL,” the company said.
“We see significant potential in Lakshadweep, with its pristine beaches and coral reefs set amongst the Arabian Sea,” IHCL MD and CEO Puneet Chhatwal had said while announcing the signing of resorts last year. “The two world-class Taj resorts will attract international as well as national travellers.”
Lakshadweep, which has a group of 36 islands, has many famous tourist places like Bangaram, Agatti, Kadmath, Minicoy, Kavaratti, and Suheli. Kadmat has also emerged as one of the most beautiful dive centers in India.
The Taj at Suheli will have 110 rooms including 60 villas on the beach and 50 water villas, the company said. A coral island with a large lagoon, Kadmat Island, also known as Cardamom Island, is a marine protected area with seagrass beds. Featuring 110 rooms, the Taj Hotel at Kadmat will comprise 75 beach villas and 35 water villas.
Lakshadweep, an archipelago in the Arabian Sea, is known for its scenic beauty with exotic beaches, coral reefs, and lagoons. “It is a haven for water sports including scuba diving, windsurfing, snorkelling, surfing, water skiing, and yachting,” the company said.