Maldives: Short Notes

Maldives: Short Notes

The Maldives is a unique and beautiful island nation located in the Indian Ocean, southwest of Sri Lanka and India.

It is an archipelago consisting of 26 atolls, which are made up of more than 1,192 coral islands and sandbanks (of which approx. 200 are inhabited). 

These atolls are formed from coral reefs that encircle a lagoon, creating a stunning and distinctive landscape. The islands are known for their white sandy beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, and vibrant coral reefs.

The islands extend more than 510 miles (820 km) from north to south and 80 miles (130 km) from east to west.

Basic Facts

  • Official Name – Republic of Maldives.
  • Capital – Male.
  • Official Language – Dhivehi (aka Maldivian).
    • Other Spoken Languages – Arabic, English, Hindi.
  • State Religion – Islam.
  • President – Mohamed Muizzu.
  • Parliament – People's Majlis (Unicameral).
  • Currency – Maldivian Rufiyaa.
  • The smallest country in Asia – Maldives.
  • The Second least populous country in Asia – Maldives.
  • The Lowest-lying country in the World – Maldives.
  • No. of islands – 1,192.
  • No. of inhabitable islands – 189.
  • Largest Island – Gan.
  • The First king of the whole Maldives – Koimala.
  • Maldives became a British protectorate in – 1796.
  • The Sultanate was abolished in Maldives in – 1968.

Maldives gained independence from British protection on July 26, 1965, and has since developed its political institutions.

The Maldives is a presidential republic with a political system characterized by a strong executive branch. The President serves as both the head of state and government. The constitution of the Maldives was adopted in 2008.

Tourism and fishing are the two main pillars of the Maldivian economy. The country's economy heavily relies on the revenue generated from tourism, thanks to its picturesque beaches, luxurious resorts, and diverse marine life.

It is renowned for its overwater bungalows, world-class diving and snorkeling opportunities, and the opportunity to explore vibrant coral reefs.

The Maldivian culture is influenced by South Asian, Arab, and African traditions.  The Maldives has a rich cultural heritage, with traditional music, dance, and art playing an essential role in the local way of life.

Why in the News?

Recently Indian PM Narendra Modi shared a post of his sojourn to Lakshadeep on social media platforms Instagram and X (formerly Twitter) on January 4, 2024. 

On Instagram, 

On X, he wrote:

Even though Modi didn't specify anything about Maldives in his post rather encouraged the lesser-known Lakshadeep as a tourism destination for Indians.

This garnered the attention of people across the globe and irked some of the Maldivian people as they thought this was a direct threat to their tourism and resort industry. 

Three Maldives officials - deputy ministers with the Ministry of Youth Employment, Information and Arts namely Maryam Shuina, Malsha Shareef, and Mahzoom Majid - responded to his post, describing Modi as a “clown,” “terrorist” and a “puppet of Israel.” 

On X Mariyam Shiuna, Maldives Deputy Minister of Youth Empowerment noted:

Mariyam Shiuna

These statements have sparked outrage among Indians, who have flooded social media platforms, advocating for an economic "boycott" of the Maldives with the hashtags #BoycottMaldives, #UnfriendMaldives, and promoting #ExploreIndianIslands

This controversy resulted in a diplomatic tussle between India and the Maldives.

Although the tweets have been deleted, and the ministers involved have been suspended, the Maldivian government has distanced itself from their statements and issued a statement saying:

'The Government of Maldives is aware of derogatory remarks on social media platforms against foreign leaders and high-ranking individuals. These opinions are personal and do not represent the views of the Government of Maldives.'

Despite these actions, the damage has already been inflicted, leading to the summoning of respective Ambassadors (Ibrahim Shaheeb & Munu Mahawar). 

This is particularly significant as Indian tourists constitute one of its biggest sources of tourism income post-COVID-19.

Aligning with the prevailing sentiment, the Indian travel platform EaseMyTrip announced on Monday that it has temporarily halted the booking of flights to the Maldives.

In addition to this, India's apex trade body Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) also asked its members to suspend business with Maldives.

Green Humour by Rohan Chakravarty on India-Maldives row:

Green Humour | Photo Credit: Rohan Chakravarty

Green Humour | Photo Credit: Rohan Chakravarty

Deteriorating Diplomatic Ties

The Maldives occupies a vital role as a key maritime neighbor for India in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). 

It holds special importance in endeavors like 'SAGAR' (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and stands out as a focal point for the Indian government's emphasis on the 'Neighbourhood First Policy.'

Mohamed Muizzu
India also has consistently served as the Maldives' "first responder" during times of crisis over the years like in the 2004 tsunami and the water crisis in Male in December 2014.

Despite the longstanding cultural and economic ties of decades, the Maldivian President Ibrahim Muizzu who assumed office in November 2023, ran a campaign last year with a nationalist stance against India and again on January 14, 2024 gave an ultimatum to remove Indian troops by March 15.

He opted not to make his inaugural visit to New Delhi, breaking with the customary practice and instead chose to visit Turkey. Additionally, he raised questions about the presence of Indian military advisers and requested to withdraw the military.

He considers China as his closest ally and on his recent visit to China signed a $50 million project with China to develop an integrated tourism zone in the Indian Ocean island.

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