India describes as ‘propaganda’ posts on ‘targeting of Muslims’
India on Thursday described a flurry of social media posts in West Asia on the treatment of Muslims in the country as “propaganda” and said countries in that region were keen to work with New Delhi for economic recovery after the Covid-19 crisis.
Over the past few weeks, several commentators from West Asia and a member of the royal family of the United Arab Emirates have called out what they said were Islamophobic social media posts by a handful of Indians working in the Middle East. They have also criticised what they said was the targeting of Muslims in India.
As the issue gained prominence, external affairs minister S Jaishankar reached out to many of his counterparts in West Asian countries, especially members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to address the matter and also to discuss the welfare of some 8 million expatriates in the region.
Responding to a string of questions on the issue during a virtual news briefing, external affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava described much of the material on social media platforms as “propaganda by interested parties”.
“Stray tweets cannot be used to characterise our bilateral relations with these countries, and the real picture of these relations is very different. The prime minister and external affairs minister have been in regular touch with their counterparts from the region, and spoken to them over the past few days,” he said.
The West Asian states, he said, also want a “priority discussion with India on the post-Covid-19 economic recovery”.
Srivastava added: “So what comes out clearly in these discussions is that these countries are deeply committed to friendly relations with India. They also don’t support any interference in the internal affairs of India. It is, therefore, important the friendly and cooperative nature of our relations is accurately recognised and the misuse of social media is not given credence.”
The West Asian states have also made requests for India to send medicines and medical teams. “There’s a request to send doctors and nurses from India,” Srivastava said, adding that so far, a medical rapid response team had been deployed in Kuwait for a fortnight.
India has also made special efforts to ensure uninterrupted supply of food and essential commodities required by these countries during the holy month Ramzan.
Responding to a report that Oman, which is home to 770,000 Indians, has launched a drive to replace expatriates working in the government sector, Srivastava said this was a decades-old policy that isn’t “specific to India and doesn’t target Indians in any way”.
Countries such as Oman “greatly value relations with India and also value the large and important role that our diaspora has played in contributing to the economic prosperity of that region”, he said. Oman has also been taking special care of Indians amid the Covid-19 crisis by providing them free testing and treatment, he added.
Oman’s finance ministry recently issued a circular calling for expatriates employed in the government sector to be replaced by Omanis, with proposals in this regard to be submitted by July. The circular also said the replacement of expatriates should be done in a speedy manner.