As the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Indian government tries to save face amid outrage over BJP spokespersons’ remarks against Prophet Muhammad, Indian Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu seems to be facing the brunt of the fallout.
Naidu arrived in Qatar on Saturday, 4 June, as both sides prepare to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. However, he cancelled his scheduled press conference in Doha.
Naidu was received by Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Soltan bin Saad Al Muraikhi who had summoned the Indian ambassador Deepak Mittal a day later to express the country’s disappointment over the remarks.
Further, on Sunday, Naidu met Qatar's Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani. The two leaders reviewed the bilateral ties between the two countries in areas such as trade, investment, economic, and security cooperation.
One of his meetings though, in the form of lunch by Amir Sheik Abdullah Bin Ahmed al Thani on Saturday, was called off at the last moment.
As per official sources quoted by The Times of India, this had nothing to with the outrage against the anti-Prophet remarks. The Qatar side had apparently conveyed to India on Friday that the banquet won’t take place because of a “medical reason”.
Meanwhile, the vice president visited the Qatar National Museum in Doha. Hassan bin Abdulla Al Ghanim, the speaker of Qatar Shura Council, the country's legislative council, also called on Naidu on Monday.
Qatar’s Disappointment Over Remarks Against Prophet
The Qatar Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday had summoned Indian ambassador Dr Deepak Mittal and handed him an official note, expressing "disappointment of the State of Qatar and its total rejection and condemnation to the controversial remarks made by an official in the ruling party in India against Prophet Muhammad."
Responding to this, the Indian government told its Qatar counterpart that:
"In line with our civilisational heritage and strong cultural traditions of unity in diversity, Government of India accords the highest respect to all religions. Strong action has already been taken against those who made the derogatory remarks."
"Ambassador conveyed that the tweets do not, in any manner, reflect the views of the Government of India. These are the views of fringe elements," a press release by Embassy of India-Doha further added.
Meanwhile, #BoycottQatarAirways trended on the micro-blogging platform as a section of users demanded a boycott on the airline for Qatar's criticism of the statements made by Indian leaders.
(With inputs from The Times of India.)