Amid a strong reaction from the Gulf countries over the remarks of BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma on Prophet Mohamad, the ruling BJP appears to be on the backfoot and finding ways to ensure the situation doesn’t hamper the diplomatic ties.
While there is a wide spread demand for a boycott of Indian products in some countries more and more Muslim countries are coming out against the remark putting Indian government in a self-explanatory mode.
In order to dispel the heat, ruling BJP issued a statement Sunday, “The BJP strongly denounces insults of any religious personalities of any religion. The BJP is also against any ideology which insults or demeans any sect or religion. The BJP does not promote such people or philosophy,” the party said in a statement on Sunday.
The remark made a few days ago during a television program has not only triggered reactions from the Muslim community within the country it has triggered an outrage within the Gulf countries. Many of these countries have summoned the high commissioners and issued their resentment demanding apology for the remark putting India in a diplomatic tight spot.
Ruling BJP, has since suspended two of its spokespersons and distanced itself from the remarks. Prime Minister Narendra Modi led central government which had made much effort developing cordial relationships with the Islamic nations, feels the heat from these nations as the party not just have to face backlash over suspended BJP leader Nupur Sharma’s comment over Prophet Muhammad but it has also jeopardized the terms between the countries.
Gulf Reacts to Nupur Sharma’s remarks on Prophet Mohamad
After Qatar, Iran and Kuwait, Saudi Arabia on Monday condemned the controversial remarks made by Sharma and called for “respect for beliefs and religions” describing her comments as “insulting”.
The Indian Ambassador in Qatar said in a tweet that the controversial tweets do not, in any manner, reflect the views of the government of India. “These are the views of fringe elements,” the Indian Embassy quoting him said.
Besides, the Taliban-led government in Afghanistan has condemned the remarks made by two former spokespersons of India’s ruling BJP against Prophet Muhammed.
In a tweet, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan strongly condemns the use of derogatory words against the Prophet of Islam by an official of the ruling party in India”, Pajhwok News reported.
“We urge the Indian government not to allow such fanatics to insult the holy religion of Islam and provoke the feelings of Muslims,” he added.
Besides, India’s ambassadors to Kuwait and Qatar were summoned on Sunday to receive official notes of protest over the comments.
Doha has also demanded the Indian Government to issue a public apology.
The visit of the Vice President Venkaiah Naidu was planned to give a fillip to the India-Qatar ties and add momentum to the high-level engagements between the two nations. It was however overshadowed by the strong reaction from the Government of Qatar to the BJP leader’s remarks.
While Pakistan President Arif Alvi has strongly condemned Sharma’s statement, taking to Twitter on Sunday, Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said: “I condemn in the strongest possible words hurtful comments of India’s BJP leader about our beloved Prophet. (I have) said it repeatedly India under Modi is trampling religious freedoms and persecuting Muslims. The world should take note and severely reprimand India.
“Our love for the Holy Prophet is supreme. All Muslims can sacrifice their life for the love and respect of their Holy Prophet.”
President Alvi said “such comments were the reflection of a growing trend of Islamophobia in India, which is home to millions of Muslims”, Dawn news reported.
Opposition Hits out at BJP over Prophet remarks
The Congress leader P. Chidambaram on Monday hit out at the BJP after two of its leaders were suspended saying it was the international backlash that forced the party to act.
“Domestic criticism did not impel the BJP to act against the two spokespersons. It was only the international backlash that pushed the BJP to take action.”
“Mrs Nupur Sharma and Mr Naveen Kumar were not the original creators of Islamophobia, “Remember, they were trying to be more loyal than the king,” he added.
The comments – especially Sharma’s – angered the country’s minority Muslim community, leading to sporadic protests in some states especially in Kanpur.
Several cases had been filed against Sharma in Mumbai, Hyderabad and Pune, accusing her of hurting religious sentiments.
Apologising for her remarks, Sharma has said “If my words have caused discomfort or hurt religious feelings of anyone whatsoever, I hereby unconditionally withdraw my statement. It was never my intention to hurt anyone’s religious feelings.”
Countries like Kuwait, Qatar and Iran called Indian ambassadors to register their protest on Sunday. Qatar said it expected a public apology from India.
“Allowing such Islamophobic remarks to continue without punishment, constitutes a grave danger to the protection of human rights and may lead to further prejudice and marginalisation, which will create a cycle of violence and hate,” Qatar’s ministry of foreign affairs said.
India has much at stakes with the Gulf
India’s quick response and suspending its spokesperson derives its cause from the fact that India cannot afford to annoy the Gulf countries. Twitter thread #boycottindiaproduct is as real as it appears. India’s business with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), includes Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman and the UAE, stands at $87 billion in 2020-21.
Modi has been a regular visitor to the region since coming to power in 2014. The country has already signed a free trade agreement with the UAE and is in talks with the GCC for a wider deal.
The Prime Minister had also attended the ground-breaking ceremony of the first Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi in 2018 – it was termed as an example of the growing ties between India and the region.
While Delhi’s relations with Tehran have been lukewarm over the past few years, the controversy could overshadow Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian’s upcoming visit to India.
Amidst the hashtags for a boycott of Indian products there have also been reports of some stores in Qatar and Kuwait removing Indian products from their shelves.