The Gaza Connection – Why Maldivian Officials Referred to India’s Modi as ‘Puppet of Israel’

A diplomatic spat between India and the Maldives is linked to the Gaza war. (Image: Palestine Chronicle)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

At first glance, the political crisis in the Maldives may appear to be of no link to the Israeli war on Gaza. The opposite is true.

The Maldivian government suspended three deputy ministers over what is seen as their harsh criticism of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Malsha Shareef, Mariyam Shiuna and Abdulla Mahzoom Majid – who all worked for the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Information and Arts – were disciplined for their comments against Modi on social media, Reuters reported on Sunday.

The three had reportedly described Modi as a “clown”, “terrorist” and “puppet of Israel” on social media platform X, in response to a video, on the same social media platform, promoting tourism in Lakshadweep, an Indian Union territory in the Arabian Sea.

Why the Criticism? 

The criticism was motivated by the fact that the Maldivian ministers saw Modi’s post on X as an attempt to promote Indian tourism as an alternative destination to the Maldives. 

Modi’s message was part of a larger campaign. According to the Hindustan Times, “many celebrities have urged citizens to explore domestic tourist destinations like Lakshadweep instead of going to the Maldives.”

A few hours after the incident, Israel announced “that it will start the desalination program in Lakshadweep on Tuesday, a move that could further boost tourism in the Indian archipelago amid the ongoing controversy surrounding the Maldives,” the Delhi-based newspaper added.

The Israeli embassy also posted a social media message on X stating that “Israel is ready to commence working on this project tomorrow”.

Social Media Campaign

These developments seemed to be coordinated, especially as the comments by the three Maldivian ministers were immediately followed by the hashtag “Boycott Maldives”, which has been trending on X, as reported in Indian Express.

“With India, a parallel phenomenon is emerging: Social media users vocally declaring where India ‘stands on critical global issues’,” the Express also reported. 

Since the start of the Israeli war on Gaza, on October 7, many Indian media organizations and social media activists took a pro-Israeli stance, and were accused of spreading pro-Israel disinformation. 

“Amid Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, there was a significant emergence of right-wing and Hindu nationalist accounts in India on social media, amplifying anti-Palestinian and Islamophobic disinformation,” according to Indian Express.

India and Israel at the UN 

The pro-Israel campaign in India was consistent with India’s early position at the United Nations, which, unlike China and Russia, didn’t strongly push for an immediate ceasefire. 

On December 13, ​​however, India voted in favor of a resolution put before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

The vote was considered a major shift in the South Asian country’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. 

In October, New Delhi abstained from voting on a Jordanian resolution calling for a humanitarian truce, citing its “zero-tolerance policy” on what it called ‘terrorism’.

On the 68th day of Israel’s brutal aggression on Gaza, however, India’s position changed.

A Major Shift – Israel Loses Support of India at UN

“(The) challenge in this extraordinarily difficult time is to strike the right balance,” Ruchira Kamboj, India’s permanent representative to the UN, said in her remarks on the vote. 

The seemingly isolated issue of the Maldives, however, is in fact largely situated within the Israeli war on Gaza, or most specifically, Tel Aviv’s need to maintain a pro-Israel position from Delhi, and Modi in particular. 

(The Palestine Chronicle)

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