Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu has taken action against three deputy ministers for making “derogatory remarks” about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

President Muizzu, who won September’s elections with promises to remove a small Indian troop contingent from the archipelago, suspended the ministers pending an investigation. One deputy minister, Mariyam Shiuna, had referred to Modi as a “clown” after his visit to the Indian territory of Lakshadweep, north of the Maldives. 

The suspended ministers, Malsha Shareef, Abdulla Mahzoon, and Shiuna, from the youth ministry, criticized Modi on social media. The Maldivian government acknowledged the remarks but stressed they were personal opinions. Concerns have arisen about potential repercussions, as Indian tourists are a significant contributor to the Maldives’ tourism-dependent economy. 

Tensions escalated after Modi praised Lakshadweep on January 4, situated near the Maldives. The Maldives, a geopolitical hotspot due to its strategic location, had initially indicated a pro-China stance but later moderated its anti-Indian stance, with President Muizzu confirming India’s troop withdrawal.