India trade body urges tour operators to ‘stop promoting’ Maldives amid row

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The Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) on Monday urged all the tourism and trade associations in the country to stop promoting Maldives amid a row over anti-India remarks made by some Maldivian ministers. The chairman of the trade body, Subhash Goyal, issued a statement for all the tourism associations as a “patriotic Indian in the larger national interest”.

“This is in spite of the fact that Indians are one of the biggest sources of foreign exchange and creation of jobs in the Maldives. Please divert all such enquiries to Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar Islands which are even better than Maldives in many ways, and other destinations which can be promoted in the Indian Ocean area are Srilanka, Mauritius, Bali, and Phuket,” the ICC chairman wrote in a statement.

Goyal also appealed to all the Indian carriers operating in Maldives to suspend their operations and think of operating in Lakshadweep islands under the Udaan Scheme.

“I appeal to members of FHRAI and the Hotel Association of India to seriously look at investing in Lakshadweep islands as in the future it will give you better returns on your investment than Maldives. I have already asked STIC Travels to stop selling Maldives,” the statement read.

Online travel company EaseMyTrip has suspended all flight bookings to the Maldives. On Monday, MakeMyTrip claimed that a massive 3400 per cent surge was recorded in on-platform searches for Lakshadweep following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to the union territory.

India-Maldives row

A massive controversy erupted last week after the deputy minister of Maldives, along with some other ministers, made racist remarks targeting India and mocked Modi’s attempt to promote Lakshadweep as a tourist destination. The comments also triggered Indians on social media, with several people, including celebrities, joining the call to boycott the island nation.

As India took up the issue with Male, the Maldivian government distanced itself from the derogatory remarks made by the leaders saying their “opinions are personal and do not represent the views of the Government of Maldives”.

“The government believes that the freedom of expression should be exercised in a democratic and responsible manner, and in ways that do not spread hatred, and negativity, and hinder close relationships between the Maldives and international partners. The relevant authorities of the government will not hesitate to take action against those who make such derogatory remarks,” the Maldives government said in a statement.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, the Maldivian authorities suspended three ministers – Mariyam Shiuna, Malsha Shareef, and Mahzoom Majid – for their anti-India remarks.