New Delhi, Feb 24 (PTI) The Maldives has been famous in India especially on social media for wrong reasons, former Maldivian Defence Minister Mariya Didi said here on Saturday.

The comments come in the backdrop of a recent controversy triggered by social media posts by a minister and other leaders in the Maldives days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the Lakshadweep archipelago.

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"The Maldives has been famous in India for the wrong reasons, I would say especially on social media. We are not people like that. We love foreigners visiting our country, and we welcome you all to the Maldives," Didi said at the Firstpost Defence Summit 2024.

The leaders had accused India of targeting the Maldives, and said India faces significant challenges in competing with the Maldives in beach tourism, after PM Modi's posts on X about snorkelling in the Lakshadweep went viral.

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Talking about the island nation, Didi said 25 years ago it could not be found on maps, even though it covers an area of about 54,000 square kilometers, which is about the size of France.

"But 99 percent of our territory is water. Now how can the Maldives suddenly come on the chart. People are talking about the Maldives. If you look at where we are situated, we have four major sea lines of communication that pass through or near our archipelago," she said, adding that stability is important in the region.

Didi said India has been the first responder when the Maldives required help.

"Like the Asian Tsunami, when we had difficulties we had India coming first as our first responder," she said, adding that the Tsunami changed the sea bed as well, and many islands have disappeared while some new ones have emerged, and hydrographic charts need to be updated.

"You know we have to be part of the international world, the international community... What we cannot afford is a major oil spill. Or a chemical spill. And if we do have such an accident or incident, we need neighbours... What we saw even in Sri Lanka with the oil spill in the Indian Ocean, India was there to help," she said.

"So as part of the global world, you know, we have to understand and be part of the international community. Make sure that we maintain stability in the region, make sure the Indian Ocean is conflict free," she said.

"Which is why when our government was in power we saw that we always had good relations with our neighbours and others in the international community,"she said.

"We have managed to maintain peace in the region and we hope that things will be so," she said.

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