Hours before the Maldives government — led by pro-China leader Mohamed Muizzu — finally buckled under pressure and responded to the growing controversy, it was the former leaders of the island nation that came to India’s defence and urged the Muizzu government to realise New Delhi’s crucial role in the nation’s development.
‘Boycott will hurt Maldives’
Former sports minister of Maldives Ahmed Mahloof condemned the language used by the ministers and admitted that any form of boycott by Indian tourists would deeply hurt the economy of the island nation, which is entirely dependant on tourism.
In a post on X, Mahloof said he was “deeply worried about the escalating situation regarding the sensitive comments about our closest neighbor”.
“Indians boycotting the Maldives will have a huge impact on our economy. It would be hard for us to recover from such a campaign. I call on the government to swiftly take serious action to solve the issue ASAP. India will always remain our closest neighbor; that’s a fact. We love India and Indians; they are always welcome in the Maldives. As an ordinary citizen of the Maldives, I apologise for the racist comments by a few Maldivians towards Indians and Prime Minister Modi,” he said.
India-friendly leaders condemn hateful language
Former president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who was recently beaten at the polls by current pro-China leader Mohamed Muizzu, condemned “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,” he said.
Former Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed also condemned the derogatory remarks made by the ministers and urged Muizzu to distance the government from the comments. Saying that India was “instrumental” in Maldives’ security and prosperity, the first democratically elected president of the island nation asked Muizzu to give assurance to New Delhi that the comments don’t reflect government policy.
“What appalling language by Maldives Government official @shiuna_m towards the leader of a key ally, that is instrumental for Maldives’ security and prosperity. @MMuizzu gov must distance itself from these comments and give clear assurance to India they do not reflect gov policy,” Nasheed posted on X.
Former vice president of Maldives, Ahmed Adeeb said: “It is a very sad incident which should not have happened. When you are in an elected position, you should not engage as an activist. One has to be more responsible and also these degraded remarks towards global leader PM Modi are not acceptable. We build our tourism on the basis of tolerance, harmony, friendship and hospitality. This is not acceptable on any level … It was not acceptable … I hope they [Maldives govt] will take more action against them [the ministers] and that they resign because the damage has already been done and we should respond with strong action so that this is not repeated.”
On strong reactions by Indian actors, Adeeb said: “When I was the minister, I welcomed a lot of Bollywood actors. They engaged with us and helped us in building the Maldives where it is now. It is very sad that we have come to a situation where they have to comment against us. After Covid, it has been the Indian tourists who have really recovered the Maldives tourism industry.”
Former foreign minister of Maldives Abdulla Shahid said: “Derogatory remarks made by 2 deputy ministers of the current Maldives government, and a member of a political party in the ruling coalition, towards PM Narendra Modi and the people of India in social media is reprehensible and odious … Public figures must maintain decorum. 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.”
Maldives MP and former deputy speaker, Eva Abdullah said: “It is absolutely critical that the government of Maldives distance itself from the comments by the ministers. I know that the government has suspended the ministers, but I think it is important that the government issue a formal apology to the Indian people. The remarks by the minister are simply shameful, racist and intolerable. The minister’s words are in no way a reflection of the opinion of the people of Maldives. We’re very aware of how dependent we have been on India, and that India has always been the first responders whenever we are in need. We’ve been dependent on India for economic relations, social relations, health, education, trade, tourism and the Maldives people are very grateful for this and very aware of this.”
(With inputs from agencies)Watch ‘Boycott Maldives’ trends | Maldives MP sparks furore by downplaying Lakshadweep, days after PM Modi’s visit