Trouble in Paradise? The Crisis Between India and the Maldives

On 4 January, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi made a seemingly innocuous statement praising India’s beaches in the Lakshadweep archipelago. However, the message was received icily in the Maldives, whose economy is highly dependent on tourism from India. Three officials from Maldives’ Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Information and Arts criticised Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Lakshadweep. They labelled Modi as a ‘puppet of Israel’, a ‘terrorist’, and a ‘clown’, prompting calls to boycott the Maldives as a tourist destination in India. The situation escalated into a diplomatic row between the Maldives and India. The officials. 

The incident comes after newly elected President Mohamed Muizzu’s calls for Indian troops to leave the Maldives. His pursuit of a more independent foreign policy, particularly with an emphasis on improving ties with China, creates a shift in the dynamics of India-Maldives relations. How the policy shift plays out in the next 12 months has implications for the Indian Ocean Region (IOR)’s security, economic relations, and regional influence. 

Key Judgement 1. The recent controversy may likely lead to significant strategic and economic repercussions for the Maldives, as India represents the top market for tourists visiting the Maldives. 

Key Judgement 2. The incident likely challenges India’s strategic approach to retaining influence in the Maldives, particularly amidst a shifting political landscape. 

Key Judgement 3. It is likely that President Muizzu’s recent state visit to China and the subsequent signing of several agreements signal a potential deepening of Maldives-China ties. 

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