The Impact Of India-Maldives Conflict On Tourism
India is a diverse land with various wonders, from mountains to beaches, Deserts to islands, it is a kaleidoscope of vibrant and dynamic varieties and fusion of several cultural aspects. With its enthralling landscapes, historical legacy, and rich culture, India is a popular travel destination among travellers from every part of the world. There is a wide range of experiences available in Indian tourism, catering to all kinds of visitors.
Recently a dispute between Maldives and Lakshadweep emerged when Narendra Modi visited Lakshadweep which triggered several Maldivian ministers to post offensive comments about him and also mocked the condition of the Indian Islands to be unsuitable for travellers. This enraged the Indian citizens and led to a massive campaign of boycotting visiting Maldives. It has also led to widespread support of Indian tourism and gained significance in boosting both Lakshadweep and India’s economy which is prominently generated by tourism.
After making those derogatory remarks, the ministers were immediately expelled from power and the Maldivian government declared having no connection with these statements. Still, it did not stop the Indian citizens from massively criticizing and refraining from travelling to Maldives on a vacation. Several people started to cancel their upcoming trips and the travel company ‘Ease My Trip’ also implemented a halt to booking airfare to Maldives destinations.
The condemnations ranged from the common people to celebrities like Akshay Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, and John Abraham who took the social media platforms to express their thoughts on this incident. The Republic of Maldives is located in south Asia, surrounded by the Indian Ocean and just 360 km away from the Indian state of Kerala, it has played a significant role and had cordial relations with India.
The relationship was also bounded by the factor of these two countries attending common regional forums such as SAARC and IORA. India continued to provide financial and security aid to the Maldives throughout the history of both countries. Various instances include India providing free water to the Maldives in 2014 during its crisis, and the Maldives being supplied with Indian aircraft to give them military assistance.
In September 2023, the annual elections of Maldives resulted in Mohamed Muizzu being elected as the new President. His political campaign of ‘India Out’ gained him significance among the Maldivian citizens and the majority of votes favoured him. Since coming to power, Muizzu’s party called the People's National Congress has taken a stand towards China. All of its foreign policies are leaning in favour of the Chinese government which has further deteriorated the relationship between India and Maldives.
Considering that tourism generates 28% of the Maldives' GDP while India is the nation with the greatest number of tourists, these current developments would be harmful to the country's economy. Worsening ties between these two countries will impact Maldives because of its substantial reliance on India.
Tourism in the Indian context is equally crucial in raising the country’s economy and contributing to overall growth. The revenue of the employment sector in accommodation and transportation is significantly increased. In addition to helping local businesses, tourist income also goes towards infrastructure development, which boosts the national economy. Also, it encourages the heritage of the subcontinent by the various foreign travellers purchasing souvenirs which is a fusion of local handicraft and traditional art.
Culturally, tourism builds understanding and admiration of India's legacy by acting as a bridge between nations. A deeper connection to the nation's rich. Previously when the Indians overlooked the beauty of their nation and took a voyage to foreign countries have now changed their narrative and are urging others to discover Indian destinations and plan trips there for the welfare of their own country
Given the current situation, Lakshadweep has gained attention as a potential replacement for the Maldives post the controversy. The website MakeMyTrip saw an upsurge of 3400% in the search data of this tourist destination. The smallest union territory in India, Lakshadweep, is home to 64,000 people and has forests covering 97% of its islands, which are renowned for their abundant and vibrant marine life. To promote tourism in this country, the Indian government has also been developing many plans and projects.
For convenient access, one of the first proposals was to build a new airport on Lakshadweep's Minicoy Island. The tourist ministry is also contemplating making authorization requirements less complicated and more flexible. Though it is a challenge to accommodate a high number of tourists amongst its fragile infrastructure, numerous efforts are being taken by tourism officials to progressively achieve developments in this union territory.
Apart from Lakshadweep, the NITI Aayog additionally seeks to promote eco-tourism in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands along with establishing over 100 islands in India to provide a more affordable and better alternative to the Maldives. Several initiatives and strategies are being developed to expand the reach of Indian tourism worldwide
In light of these facts, Disputes between Indian Maldives have the potential to alter regional dynamics while also having consequences on regional bodies and other neighbouring countries.
Moreover, this controversy has also given rise to a sense of patriotism to India’s citizens which has prompted them to travel in their own country and a decline in Indian tourists visiting the Maldives. The focus has now shifted to Indian destinations and the government’s plan to financially aid the tourism sector to increase the country’s economy. In the upcoming days, both countries look forward to resolving their differences to restore peace and stability between them and collaborating on a global level
— Radhika Shankar
(The author is a Journalism Student of Christ University, Bengaluru)