During his first official visit to New Delhi, Foreign Minister Moosa Zameer apologised to the Indian government on Thursday for derogatory comments made by three high-ranking Maldivian government officials against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in January.

In his meeting with India’s External Affairs Minister Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Zameer acknowledged that the comments, made by deputies Malsha Shareef, Mariyam Shiuna, and Abdulla Mahzoom Majid of the Ministry of Sports, Fitness and Recreation, did not reflect the views of the Maldivian government or its citizens. The three officials were promptly suspended after the incident and remain under investigation.

“It should not have been allowed in my opinion, but to ensure such a circumstance does not repeat, we are taking necessary steps,” Zameer said, speaking to ANI News.

The derogatory comments triggered a social media backlash in India, leading to calls for boycotting Maldivian tourism. This significantly impacted tourist arrivals from India, dropping the market ranking from first to sixth place in 2024. Arrivals for the first four months plummeted by 42%.

During his discussions with Jaishankar, Zameer expressed optimism that tourism would recover in the coming months despite the ongoing tensions. Both nations appear to have moved past the incident, using the opportunity to reinforce mutual cooperation and discuss strategies for future partnerships.

Jaishankar reiterated India’s support for the Maldives, emphasising that India remains a reliable partner in development assistance, security cooperation, and capacity-building efforts. 

“As close and proximate neighbours, the development of our ties is obviously based on mutual interests and reciprocal sensitivity,” Jaishankar said, noting that India’s foreign policy principles, including the Neighbourhood First policy and SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) vision, guide their relations. He expressed hope that the discussions would enhance their shared perspectives across multiple domains.

He emphasised India’s significant role as a key provider of development assistance to the Maldives, highlighting how infrastructure projects, social initiatives, medical evacuation, and health facilities have directly improved the quality of life in the Maldives. India has also provided financial support on favourable terms, acting as a first responder in times of need.

“Our cooperation has also enhanced the security and well-being of your country through shared activities, equipment provisioning, capacity building and training,” he added.

Jaishankar recognised that the global environment remains volatile and uncertain, underscoring the importance of close partnerships between neighbouring nations. The two ministers reviewed various aspects of their relationship, seeking mutual understanding on the best way forward.