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Maldives ex-President Solih condemns ‘hateful language’ against PM Modi – India TV

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with former Maldives president
Image Source : PTI/FILE Prime Minister Narendra Modi with former Maldives president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

Former President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who was succeeded by China-leaning Mohamed Muizzu in last year’s presidential elections, condemned the “hateful language” by ministers against Prime Minister Narendra Modi after the latter visited Lakshadweep recently, saying that India has always been a good friend to the island country.

A diplomatic uproar ensued when Maldives ministers used derogatory language against PM Modi after he shared some pictures of his recent visit to Lakshadweep. The Muizzu administration later issued a clarification saying that those remarks were personal and did not reflect the views of the government, and suspended three ministers – Mariyam Shiuna, Malsha and Hassan Zihan.

As the remarks sparked a backlash from Indians, several of whom cancelled their trip to the Maldives, several high-ranking politicians from Male also condemned the use of hateful language against PM Modi, including ex-Presidents Solih and Mohamed Nasheed as well as former foreign minister Abdulla Shahid.

“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,” said Solih in a post on X on Sunday.

Former Maldives Foreign Minister Shahid also slammed the derogatory remarks against PM Modi and the people of India, calling on public figures to maintain decorum and accepting that they are no longer social media activists and are entrusted with the responsibility of protecting the interests of the country.

“India is a time tested friend and an unwavering ally. They have historically been the first to respond in our time of need. Our close relationship has been bound by mutual respect, history, culture and strong people-to-people relations,” he said on X.

What were the remarks?

Mariyam Shiuna, Deputy Minister of Youth Empowerment, Information and Arts, while commenting on the photos of PM Modi, dubbed him as a ‘clown’ and a ‘puppet of Israel’. Some ministers even commented that Indian beaches could not meet the cleanliness levels of Maldives tourist places.

“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,” Zahid Rameez, a Council member of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) wrote on X. 

This triggered a major row on social media platforms, as thousands of Indians cancelled their bookings and flight tickets to Maldives. High-profile celebrities like Akshay Kumar also took to social media to condemn the remarks made against the head of state. The remarks have heightened concerns among Maldivians themselves, as their economy is heavily dependent on tourism, to which India contributes the highest.

Meanwhile, the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of EaseMyTrip, Nishant Pitti, has announced the suspension of all Maldives flight bookings. The Indian Association of Tour Operators predicts that the repercussions of recent events and the call for a boycott will become apparent within the next 20-25 days, according to news agency ANI.

Amid the escalating row between India and the Maldives, hashtag #BoycottMaldives gained traction on social media as Indian tourists started cancelling their scheduled vacations to the island nation.

Maldives government’s response

The Indian High Commission in Maldives had strongly raised and expressed concerns about the remarks made in regard to PM Modi by certain Ministers in the Maldives Government with the Foreign Office today, according to government sources.

The government of Maldives issued a statement saying that it was aware of derogatory remarks on social media platforms against foreign leaders and high-ranking individuals and added it did not represent the views of the government. Besides, it said that the incumbent government would not hesitate to take action against those who make such derogatory remarks.  

“The Government of Maldives is aware of derogatory remarks on social media platforms against foreign leaders and high-ranking individuals. These opinions are personal and do not represent the views of the Government of Maldives…Moreover, the relevant authorities of the Government will not hesitate to take action against those who make such derogatory remarks,” according to the statement.

India-Maldives relations

It is worth mentioning ever since pro-China President Mohamed Muizzu after his surprise victory in September’s presidential election, the relations between New Delhi and Male were already poised to deteriorate. Muizzu’s party was part of the ‘India Out’ campaign and ordered to withdrawal of Indian military presence from the island nation– in an attempt to woo Beijing. Now, the critical comments against the PM would deteriorate the relations further.

Maldives holds great importance for both India and China, as it lies on the way of cargo shipping lines and is considered a gateway of geopolitical influence over the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), which has witnessed a growing belligerence by China in recent times. It is, however, unpredictable with rampant crime and corruption in domestic politics.

Solih had maintained friendly ties with India and bilateral ties between both sides marked a significant uptick under his presidency. India has offered bilateral and development assistance to the island country and has contributed significantly to public welfare, tourism, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and in combating illegal maritime activities in the island nation.

(with inputs from agencies)

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