India faces diplomatic fallout over remarks insulting Prophet Muhammad

Special India faces diplomatic fallout over remarks insulting Prophet Muhammad
Indian Muslims at a protest rally demanding the arrest of Nupur Sharma of the Hindu nationalist party after she made derogatory references to Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 07 June 2022

India faces diplomatic fallout over remarks insulting Prophet Muhammad

India faces diplomatic fallout over remarks insulting Prophet Muhammad
  • At least 7 Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia, have lodged protests over the remarks
  • Latest controversy follows increasing violence toward India’s Muslim minority

NEW DELHI: India is facing a major diplomatic row with Muslim countries after top officials from the country’s ruling party made insulting remarks about the Prophet Muhammad, with experts saying on Monday the fallout could damage the South Asian country’s relations with its Islamic nations.

Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal, prominent spokespersons from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, made derogatory references to Islam and the Prophet Muhammad on different occasions, sparking anger among Muslims in India and overseas.

The BJP suspended Sharma and expelled Jindal on Sunday, following a chorus of diplomatic outrage from Islamic countries and institutions, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, as ire poured out on social media, and calls for a boycott of Indian goods surfaced.

The controversial remarks follow increasing violence targeting India’s Muslim minority, which makes up about 13 percent of its 1.35 billion population, carried out by Hindu nationalists, who have been emboldened by Modi’s regular silence about such attacks since taking office in 2014.

As criticisms from Muslim countries mounted over the weekend, experts said India’s international standing, especially in the Gulf, is in jeopardy.

“The government of India should have seen what was coming and should have proactively stopped all these hate propaganda, politics and activities. Unfortunately, the ruling party was promoting it,” Sudheendra Kulkarni, political activist and former advisor to the former BJP Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, told Arab News.

“It’s not the BJP but the country that will bear the cost of anti-Muslim politics.”

India’s foreign policy under Modi has prioritized relations with Arab nations and the close ties it enjoys hold importance for the South Asian country, including for oil imports and the remittances it receives from Gulf states, as around 4 million Indian nationals work in the region, sending over $80 billion annually.

“For all these reasons, India cannot afford to have an Arab world which is angry with India,” foreign policy expert Manoj Joshi, who is attached with the Delhi-based think tank Observer Research Foundation, told Arab News.

India’s relations with the Arab world are passing through “a golden phase,” said Meena Singh Roy, who heads the West & Central Asia Center at Tilottama Foundation.

“We should not do anything to derail it,” she told Arab News.

Sanjay Kapoor, chief editor of the political magazine Hard News, urged action by the nation’s leadership.

“India’s image has been hurt badly and this is something that cannot be fixed by diplomacy, but corrective action by political leadership in India,” Kapoor told Arab News.

The Indian government has yet to comment on the protests lodged by Arab nations, but the Ministry of External Affairs said on Monday that the OIC’s statement on the matter was “unwarranted” and “narrow-minded,” while India’s embassies in Qatar and Doha issued statements that the views expressed about the Prophet Muhammad and Islam did not reflect those of New Delhi.

The BJP said the remarks “were not in alignment with the ideology the BJP represents.”

Spokesperson Sudesh Verma told Arab News: “The BJP does not believe in disrespecting reverential figures of any religion.”

As the treatment of Muslim minorities in the country has been a “matter of great concern for the people,” India’s former foreign minister, Yashwant Sinha, said the latest controversy may pave the way for change.

“The vast majority of the people don’t approve of this and now that there is a backlash abroad these people will become more careful,” Sinha told Arab News.

Rahul Gandhi, leader of India’s main opposition Congress Party, said on Twitter that the ruling party’s actions are weakening the country at the global level.

“BJP’s shameful bigotry has not only isolated us, but also damaged India’s standing globally,” Ghandhi said.


Gunmen kill 2 policemen escorting polio workers in Pakistan

Gunmen kill 2 policemen escorting polio workers in Pakistan
Updated 10 sec ago

Gunmen kill 2 policemen escorting polio workers in Pakistan

Gunmen kill 2 policemen escorting polio workers in Pakistan
PESHAWAR, Pakistan: Gunmen riding on motorcycles opened fire on Tuesday on police escorting a team of polio workers in northwestern Pakistan, killing two policemen, authorities said.
None of the polio workers were harmed, said Mohammad Imran, a local police official. The four polio workers and their police escort were all traveling on motorcycles.
The assailants fled the scene and no one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in the town of Gomal, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan.
The attack came on the second day of Pakistan’s latest anti-polio campaign in the province. Pakistan has registered 14 new polio cases since April, all from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The outbreak has been a blow to the Islamic nation’s efforts to eradicate the disease, which can cause severe paralysis in children.
Pakistan’s anti-polio campaigns are regularly marked by violence as Islamic militants often target polio teams and police protecting them, falsely claiming that the vaccination campaigns are a Western conspiracy to sterilize children.
Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only countries in the world where polio remains endemic. In 2021, Pakistan reported only one case, raising hopes it was close to eradicating polio.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin lashes out at US over Ukraine, Taiwan

Russian leader Vladimir Putin lashes out at US over Ukraine, Taiwan
Updated 28 min 19 sec ago

Russian leader Vladimir Putin lashes out at US over Ukraine, Taiwan

Russian leader Vladimir Putin lashes out at US over Ukraine, Taiwan
  • ‘The situation in Ukraine shows that the US is trying to prolong this conflict’
  • ‘We see this as a carefully planned provocation’

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday accused Washington of seeking to prolong the conflict in Ukraine and of fueling conflicts elsewhere in the world, including with the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan.
“The situation in Ukraine shows that the US is trying to prolong this conflict. And they act in exactly the same way, fueling the potential for conflict in Asia, Africa and Latin America,” Putin said in televised remarks, addressing the opening ceremony of a security conference in Moscow via videolink.
“The American adventure in relation to Taiwan is not just a trip of an individual irresponsible politician, but part of a purposeful, conscious US strategy to destabilize and make chaotic the situation in the region and the world,” he added.
He said the visit was a “brazen demonstration of disrespect for the sovereignty of other countries and for its (Washington’s) international obligations.”
“We see this as a carefully planned provocation,” Putin said.
Relations between Moscow and Washington have been in tatters since Russia in late February launched a military intervention in pro-Western Ukraine.
Pummeled by a barrage of unprecedented Western sanctions, Putin has sought to bolster ties with countries in Africa and Asia, especially with China.
Moscow was in full solidarity with key ally Beijing during Pelosi’s August visit to self-ruled, democratic Taiwan, which China considers its territory.


Iran says Swedish citizen detained for espionage might face other charges

Iran says Swedish citizen detained for espionage might face other charges
Updated 16 August 2022

Iran says Swedish citizen detained for espionage might face other charges

Iran says Swedish citizen detained for espionage might face other charges

DUBAI: A Swedish citizen detained in Iran on suspicion of espionage might face other charges, Iranian judiciary spokesperson Masoud Setayeshi said on Tuesday in a televised news conference.
The suspect, who remains unnamed, had been under surveillance by the intelligence ministry during several previous trips to Iran because of “suspicious behavior,” the official IRNA news agency reported in July.


Bus rams into fuel truck in eastern Pakistan, killing 20

Bus rams into fuel truck in eastern Pakistan, killing 20
Updated 16 August 2022

Bus rams into fuel truck in eastern Pakistan, killing 20

Bus rams into fuel truck in eastern Pakistan, killing 20
  • The bus was traveling from the eastern city of Lahore to the southern port city of Karachi
  • Deadly traffic accidents are common in Pakistan due to poor road infrastructure and disregard for traffic laws

MULTAN, Pakistan: A passenger bus rammed into a fuel truck on a highway in eastern Pakistan before dawn on Tuesday, igniting a fire that killed at least 20 people, police and rescue officials said.
According to the officials, the accident happened near the town of Jalalpur Peerwala in Punjab province. The bus was traveling from the eastern city of Lahore to the southern port city of Karachi.
Tahir Wattoo, a local government official in Multan, the nearest district, said early indications were that the bus driver’s negligence had caused the collision. The driver, who was also killed, slammed into the back of the fuel truck, according to photographs from the scene.
The injured were taken to hospital and at least six passengers were reported in critical condition, he added.
Some of the bodies were burned beyond recognition and DNA tests will be conducted to identify the remains before the bodies are handed over to the families, Wattoo also said.
Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif offered his condolences in a statement and asked health authorities to provide the best possible treatment to the injured.
Deadly traffic accidents are common in Pakistan due to poor road infrastructure and disregard for traffic laws.


Armenian blast death toll rises to 16

Armenian blast death toll rises to 16
Updated 16 August 2022

Armenian blast death toll rises to 16

Armenian blast death toll rises to 16
  • Sunday’s blast at the Surmalu wholesale market also injured 60 people
  • Local authorities have excluded the possibility that it was a terror attack

YEREVAN: The death toll from an explosion at a bustling market in the Armenian capital Yerevan rose to 16, Armenia’s emergency situations ministry said on Tuesday.
Sunday’s blast at the Surmalu wholesale market also injured 60 people after it caused a fire and the collapse of a building.
“Sixteen bodies were found during search and rescue efforts,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that 18 people were still missing.
Officials said more than 350 rescuers are at work on the ground.
The cause has not yet been established, but local news reports, citing witnesses, said the explosion went off at a place that stored fireworks.
Local authorities have excluded the possibility that it was a terror attack and prosecutors have already launched a probe into violations “on stocking inflammable goods,” breaches in fire safety standards and the death of people “due to negligence.”
The disaster comes as the country of three million people is still recovering from a 2020 war with Azerbaijan, which ended in a heavy defeat and sparked a political crisis.
Shortly after Sunday’s blast, officials evacuated people from Yerevan metro stations after a bomb threat, but authorities found no explosive device.