Finance Minister announces infrastructure projects for port connectivity and tourism in islands, including Lakshadweep, in the interim budget
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced on Thursday that the government will launch infrastructure projects for port connectivity and tourism on the country’s islands, including Lakshwadeep — an archipelago at the centre of a diplomatic row between India and Maldives.
“To address fervour for domestic tourism, projects for port connectivity and tourism infrastructure and amenities will be taken up on islands, including Lakshwadeep,” Sitharaman said in her Interim Budget speech. Her reference to the scenic island came in the backdrop of a simmering dispute. The India-Maldives row began in the first week of January when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Lakshwadeep and posted pictures of him snorkeling and strolling on a white-sand beach — and lounging in a chair next to the turquoise Indian Ocean waters.
It was an “exhilarating experience,” he wrote on X, as he lauded the pristine and remote Indian archipelago with untapped tourism potential. The images went viral, as Indians gave a thumbs-up to them on social media. However, in the Maldives, his beach photos triggered a storm. In the tiny archipelago nation of Maldives, some saw PM Modi’s photos as a tourism campaign attempting to draw visitors away from their country.
Three senior Maldives officials reacted to Modi’s post, calling him names. They were later sacked after the government distanced itself from the derogatory remarks, which were widely condemned. In a private meeting, the head of the Indian mission was told that this was not the government’s position. In subsequent weeks, the opposition in the country condemned Mohamed Muizzu’s anti-India approach, warning not to strain the ties with a long-term ally.
Amid the diplomatic firestorm, #BoycottMaldives started trending in India, with Indians condemning the government in Male. PM Modi, last month inaugurated and laid the foundation for various projects worth Rs 1,156 crore in Lakshadweep. The projects were launched at a function attended by hundreds of people in the Union Territory. Speaking at the event, PM Modi said that the priority of his government is to make life easier for every region and every citizen of India.