Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Lakshadweep to promote tourism, three Maldivian ministers made disparaging remarks about him. This led to a diplomatic backlash, with the Mohamed Muizzu Maldivian government suspending and distancing itself from the ministers, Mariyam Shiuna, Malsha Shareef, and Mahzoom Majid.
Even though the Maldivian government moved quickly to remove its ministers, social media in India was inundated with pleas to stay away from the island nation that depends heavily on tourism.
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The Maldives’ tourism ministry reported that in 2023, the number of Indian citizens visiting the island nation totaled 18.42 lakh, or 11.2% of all visitors. Due in part to shifts in travel patterns during and after the pandemic, the percentage of Indian visitors to the Maldives increased from just 6.1% in 2018 to a sharp rise over the following few years.
Indian tourists made up the largest share of the Maldives’ source markets in 2020, 2021, and 2022 (11.3 percent, 22.1 percent, and 14.4 percent, respectively).
Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu has urged China to “intensify” efforts to send more tourists to his nation in the midst of a wave of Indian tourists canceling reservations. In his speech to the Maldives Business Forum in Fujian Province on Tuesday, Muizzu, who is currently on a five-day state visit to China, referred to China as the island nation’s “closest” ally.
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Furthermore, India is concerned about China’s growing influence in the region. Following talks between Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday, the two nations signed 20 important agreements, including one on tourism cooperation, elevating their bilateral relations to a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership.
One tourism cooperation agreement, disaster risk reduction, the blue economy, bolstering investment in the digital economy, and the Belt and Road Initiative were among the agreements signed. The Maldives will also receive grant assistance from China, however the precise amount was not made public.