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Maldives suspends officials over 'clown' jibe against Modi

January 7, 2024

Three officials from the Maldives' Youth Ministry mocked the Indian prime minister on social media after he visited the nearby archipelago of Lakshadweep and promoted it as a tourist destination.

Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu
Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu has promised to shift his country away from India, but was reportedly concerned about the repercussions of the social media postsImage: Rafiq Maqbool/AP Photo/picture alliance

The Maldives government suspended three deputy ministers on Sunday after they mocked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on social media.

Three officials from the Youth Ministry had called Modi a "clown," a "terrorist," and a "puppet of Israel" on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

The President of Maldives, Mohamed Muizzu, has ordered an investigation and suspended the deputy ministers pending the outcome.

"The government of Maldives is aware of derogatory remarks on social media platforms against foreign leaders and high ranking individuals," the government said in a statement.

"These opinions are personal and do not represent the views of the government of Maldives."

What prompted the online posts?

The three deputy ministers criticized Modi in response to a post in which he shared photos from the "pristine beaches" of India's tropical Lakshadweep islands, some 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of the Maldives.

Some viewed Modi's post as trying to draw visitors away from the Maldives.

The nation of 1,192 low-lying islands relies on tourism for a third of its economy. Indians make up the largest group of international visitors.

Muizzu won an election last year with a pledge to abandon the Maldives' "India first" policy in a region where New Delhi and Beijing vie for influence.

He also pledged to remove a small contingent of Indian troops stationed on the archipelago.

However, he has toned down his anti-India rhetoric since coming to power. Sources told the AFP news agency that the Maldives government was concerned about potential repercussions from the posts about Modi.

zc/lo (Reuters, AFP, AP)