India summons Maldivian envoy amid row over ministers’ remarks

Maldivian ambassador to India, Ibrahim Shaheeb exits the External Affairs Ministry in New Delhi on January 8, 2024.

India’s External Affairs Ministry summoned the Maldivian ambassador in New Delhi on Monday, after three Maldivian deputy ministers posted derogatory remarks against India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on social media.

Ibrahim Shaheeb was summoned to the External Affairs Ministry at around 09:00 am Monday. However, the Maldivian government has yet to make an official comment regarding the meeting.

Malsha Shareef, Mariyam Shiuna and Abdulla Mahzoom Majid – three deputy ministers at the Youth Ministry – had made the derogatory remarks against India and Modi on social media platform X, in response to a video promoting tourism in Lakshadweep.

The video showed Modi enjoying a visit to the Indian Union territory in the Arabian Sea.

Several pro-Indian government accounts shared the video, touting it as a setback for Maldives – which has an award-winning tourism industry.

In the Maldives, some viewed Modi’s visit as trying to draw tourists away from the country.

The three ministers were suspended on Sunday, after the remarks set off an uproar on Indian social media.

Prominent Indians, including Bollywood star Akshay Kumar expressed dismay at the comments.

The Maldivian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying the opinions were personal, and do not represent the views of the Maldivian government.

“The Maldivian government believes that the freedom of expression should be exercised in a democratic and responsible manner, and in ways that do not spread hatred, negativity, and hinder close relationships between the Maldives and its international partners,” it added in the statement.

It is not the first time that Maldives and India have summoned each other’s envoys over rows.

In 2018, the Maldivian Foreign Ministry summoned then-Indian ambassador in Male’, Akhilesh Mishra, after BJP MP Subramanian Swamy said the Maldives should be invaded if the presidential election scheduled for later that year was rigged.