India, Kuwait resort to damage control after leak of Kuwaiti Cabinet note
Indian and Kuwaiti authorities resorted to damage control on Monday after a Cabinet note of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member state that expressed concern about the “targeting of Indian Muslims” was leaked on social media over the weekend.
Kuwaiti ambassador Jasem Ibrahem al-Najam and external affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava issued separate statements that highlighted strong bilateral ties and cooperation between the two countries in the fight against Covid-19.
Srivastava also noted the Kuwaiti government had assured India that it doesn’t “support any interference in the internal affairs” of the country.
The note in Arabic from Kuwait’s council of ministers, which was dated March 2 but was leaked on Twitter on Sunday by a well-known Kuwaiti scholar, expressed concern “about the targeting of Indian Muslims” and called on the world community and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to take steps to stop such attacks and end the bloodshed.
At least two people familiar with developments confirmed the authenticity of the Kuwaiti Cabinet note.
External affairs ministry spokesperson Srivastava noted the references to India by non-official social media handles in Kuwait and said: “The government of Kuwait has assured us that they are deeply committed to friendly relations with India. They also do not support any interference in the internal affairs of India.”
Srivastava said India recently deployed a rapid response team at the request of Kuwait to assist that country in its fight against the Coronavirus. “During its two-week stay in Kuwait, the team rendered valuable medical assistance in testing and treatment of afflicted persons and training their personnel,” he said.
He added, “It is therefore important that friendly and cooperative nature of our relations is accurately recognised and misuse of social media is not given credence.”
Ambassador al-Najam said in a statement issued to Kuwait’s state-run Kuna news agency that the two countries “share many principles in their foreign policies, like respecting the UN Charter, non-interference in other countries’ affairs and respecting sovereignty of nations”.
He further said Kuwait and India have a historic relationship and “always seek to develop them in [the] political and economic domains”. The two sides are cooperating and coordinating to step up the fight against Covid-19 and had been looking forward to a meeting of the bilateral joint committee in the first quarter of 2020 but this was postponed due to the pandemic, he said.
India has been concerned by criticism on social media of the treatment of Indian Muslims by prominent commentators and members of royal families in some West Asian states. Over the past few days, external affairs minister S Jaishankar has reached out to his counterparts in GCC states and other Arab nations to discuss this issue and the welfare of Indian expatriates.
On Monday, secretary (overseas Indian affairs) Sanjay Bhattacharyya of the external affairs ministry held a teleconference with envoys of the GCC states as a follow-up to Jaishankar’s conversations, people familiar with the development said.
The GCC envoys thanked the Indian government for keeping open supply chains for food and medicines and for assisting in the evacuation of their citizens, one the people cited above said. The envoys also requested the deployment of Indian healthcare personnel in their countries to deal with the pandemic and discussed the issue of Indian nationals who want to return home, the person added.