(Bangalore) Indian stars are calling for a boycott of the paradise beaches of the Maldives, in response to derogatory remarks towards Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made by three deputy ministers of the archipelago.

Tourism accounts for a third of the economy of the Maldives archipelago, made up of 1,192 small coral islands stretching about 800 kilometers into the Indian Ocean.

And Indians constitute the first contingent of foreign tourists to the Maldives, where Indian starlets and influencers regularly visit.

Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu on Sunday suspended three deputy ministers from the Youth Ministry for calling Mr. Modi on social media a “clown” and a “terrorist.”

On January 4, Mr. Modi, posing with a mask and snorkel, posted a message on social media praising the “pristine beaches” of India’s Lakshadweep Islands, located about 130 kilometers north of the Maldives.

The suspension of the three vice-ministers, pending an investigation, was not enough to deflate the diplomatic quack.

“Why should we tolerate such unprovoked hatred? asked Akshay Kumar, a famous Indian actor, on Monday on X, whose message has been viewed 6.5 million times.

“I have visited the Maldives many times and have always been complimentary, but dignity above all,” he added, asking Indians to “support their own tourism”.

Indian cricket vice-captain Hardik Pandya said he was “extremely sad to see what is being said about India”, adding that he would book his next vacation on an Indian beach.

EaseMyTrip, an online travel booking platform representing nearly 10% of this market in India, has decided to suspend all its flight reservations to the archipelago.

The Maldives’ main tourism organization strongly condemned the deputy ministers’ comments in a statement, calling for the preservation of “the close relationship between the two nations.”

The Maldives archipelago occupies a strategic place in a highly sought-after geographical area in the Indian Ocean, located on one of the busiest maritime routes in the world.

Its president was elected in September by promising to expel a unit of Indian military forces which carries out air patrols there. India agreed in early December to withdraw this contingent from the Maldives.