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HomeHeadline newsCelebrities promote ‘Indian Islands’ amid Maldives controversy

Celebrities promote ‘Indian Islands’ amid Maldives controversy

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Several renowned personalities, including the Hind movie actors Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar, alongside cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, have urged people to discover “Indian islands” and coastal getaways.

Their appeal emerged during a controversy sparked by derogatory comments made by Maldivian ministers against Narendra Modi following the prime minister’s recent visit to Lakshadweep, which is situated off the southwestern coast of India and is not unlike the Maldives.

In social media posts, Kumar, cricketer Hardik Pandya, veteran player Venkatesh Prasad and others also condemned the “hateful” and “racist” comments on X by the three ministers who drew flak both in India and from the Maldives opposition leaders and tourism industry players.

Amid the backlash, the Maldivian government on Sunday distanced itself from “derogatory remarks on social media platforms against foreign leaders and high-ranking individuals” and reportedly suspended the three deputy ministers for their objectionable social media posts.

While many Indian Internet users were pitting Lakshadweep and Maldives as rival tourist destinations, there were also posts on social media claiming that some were cancelling their scheduled trip to the Maldives.

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In an X post, Salman Khan said it was “cool” to see Modi enjoy the clean and stunning beaches of Lakshadweep.

“And the best part is that yeh hamare India mein hain,” the “Tiger 3” star wrote.

Tiger Shroff said the Lakshadweep islands had captured his heart.

“The rich culture, tranquil beaches, and the genuine warmth of its people create an enchanting allure. Join me in celebrating the inclusivity and unparalleled beauty of these islands – a treasure trove waiting for us to explore!” he posted.

Actor Shraddha Kapoor and other stars shared posts on X using the hashtags ‘Explore Indian Islands’ and ‘Lakshadweep’.

Akshay Kumar, who rang in the New Year in the Maldives with his family, condemned the remarks by prominent public figures from the Maldives.

“Came across comments from prominent public figures from the Maldives passing hateful and racist comments on Indians. Surprised that they are doing this to a country that sends them the maximum number of tourists… We are good to our neighbours but why should we tolerate such unprovoked hate?

“I’ve visited the Maldives many times and always praised it, but dignity first. Let us decide to #ExploreIndianIslands and support our own tourism,” the actor wrote on the microblogging site.

Speaking in the same vein, former cricketer Venkatesh Prasad posted, “A deputy minister using such language for our country. Maldives is a largely poor country largely dependent on upmarket tourism with over 15% tourists from India.”

“India has very many unexplored beautiful coastal towns, and this is a great opportunity to develop many of them into tourist destinations,” he added in his X post.

Tendulkar said he rang in his 50th birthday in Sindhudurg and the coastal town in Maharashtra offered everything “we wanted, and more”.

“Gorgeous locations combined with wonderful hospitality left us with a treasure trove of memories. India is blessed with beautiful coastlines and pristine islands. With our ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ philosophy, we have so much to explore, so many memories waiting to be created,” Tendulkar added.

Pandya said it is “extremely sad” to see what’s being said about India.

“With its gorgeous marine life, beautiful beaches, Lakshadweep is the perfect getaway spot and surely a must visit for me for my next holiday,” he added in his X post.

Cricketer Suresh Raina also expressed similar views. “I saw remarks from prominent public figures in the Maldives, expressing hateful and racist comments directed towards Indians. It’s disheartening to witness such negativity, especially considering that India contributes significantly to their economy, crisis management and so many other aspects.

“Having visited the Maldives multiple times and always expressing admiration for the destination’s beauty, I believe it’s crucial to prioritize our self-respect. In light of recent events, let’s unite and choose to #ExploreIndianIslands, supporting our own vibrant tourism industry. It’s time to celebrate and appreciate the rich experiences that our own has to offer,” he said.

Filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar and actors John Abraham, Kangana Ranaut, and Randeep Hooda were also among the Indian film personalities who promoted Lakshadweep through social media.

Ranaut called Lakshadweep an “almost untouched, unexplored and unexploited natural island”.

Hooda, who shot his upcoming film “Veer Savarkar” in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, said he was awed by the pristine beauty and the rich history of the region.

“Incredible India is not just a tag, our beautiful country has some of the most incredible and stunning locales and #Lakshadweep is an example of it – a heaven like place in India itself! Can’t wait to explore this beautiful Indian island,” Kartik Aaryan wrote on X.

“With the amazing Indian hospitality, the idea of ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ and a vast marine life to explore. Lakshadweep is the place to go,” said Abraham.

“All these images and memes making me super FOMO now. Lakshadweep has such pristine beaches and coastlines, thriving local culture, I’m on the verge of booking an impulse chhutti. This year, why not #ExploreIndianIslands (sic)” Shraddha Kapoor shared on X.

Modi was in Lakshadweep on January 2 and 3 to inaugurate several projects.

The prime minister, who also went snorkelling to explore undersea life, posted pictures of his undersea exploration on X and early morning walks on the pristine beaches.

“For those who wish to embrace the adventurer in them, Lakshadweep has to be on your list. During my stay, I also tried snorkelling – what an exhilarating experience it was,” he wrote.

Following the escalation of the India-Maldives dispute, one of India’s major travel platforms suspended flight bookings to the tourism-reliant Maldives on Monday (8) after the disparaging social media posts against Modi which has embittered relations between the South Asian neighbours.

EaseMyTrip co-founder and Executive Director Prashant Pitti announced an indefinite suspension of bookings to the Maldives, citing statements from Maldivian ministers as the reason.

The controversy arose after three now-suspended ministers made disparaging remarks about Modi in response to his visit to the Indian islands of Lakshadweep to boost local tourism.

Despite historically close ties between New Delhi and Male, relations have been strained since President Mohamed Muizzu took office on an ‘India Out’ platform.

Muizzu’s upcoming state visit to China from January 8-12 marks a departure from the tradition of Maldivian leaders choosing New Delhi for their first international visit, highlighting the competition for influence between Beijing and New Delhi in the Indian Ocean nation.

EaseMyTrip, the second-largest online travel booking platform in India, with a 22% market share, affirmed its decision to promote Lakshadweep over foreign destinations, even if it might lead to a temporary decline in international tourism.

The Maldives government has suspended deputy ministers Malsha Shareef, Mariyam Shiuna and Abdulla Mahzoom Majid for their derogatory remarks in response to a video of Modi visiting the islands of Lakshadweep (north of the Maldives), to promote local tourism.

Amid the tensions, India summoned Maldivian envoy Ibrahim Shaheeb, while the Indian High Commissioner to the Maldives held a pre-scheduled meeting with the Maldivian foreign ministry.

The suspension of flight bookings comes as a significant blow to the Maldives, heavily reliant on tourism, with India and Russia being major contributors to its tourism sector.

Tourism constitutes nearly one-third of the Maldives’ economy, with plans to attract 2 million arrivals by 2024.

(Agencies)

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