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Government firefights after Gulf outrage over Prophet comments

New Delhi: The government today fought to defuse anger in Gulf countries and opposition attacks at home over comments on Prophet Muhammad by two BJP leaders – one has now been expelled and the other suspended.

Top officials tried to manage the diplomatic fallout as nations including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, the UAE and Iran demanded an apology from the government for allowing the derogatory remarks.

On Sunday, envoys in the Gulf were summoned amid widespread calls on social media for a boycott of Indian goods in the Gulf.

The foreign ministry said in a statement the offensive tweets and comments did not, in any way, reflect the views of the government.

In Qatar, Ambassador Deepak Mittal said the comments “do not, in any manner, reflect the views of the Government of India. These are the views of fringe elements”.

A senior official at the Qatar Embassy in New Delhi said Modi’s government must publicly distance itself from the comments. “Hurting our religious sentiments can directly impact economic ties,” Reuters quoted the official as saying.

The BJP suspended spokesperson Nupur Sharma and expelled another leader, Naveen Jindal, over the controversial comments.

The comments were made by Nupur Sharma during a TV debate last week in the backdrop of a series of communal incidents across the country. BJP media chief Naveen Jindal posted a tweet about the Prophet, which he later deleted.

In a statement on Sunday, the BJP said it is “strongly against any ideology which insults or demeans any sect or religion” and “does not promote such people or philosophy”.

India’s trade with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which includes Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman and the UAE, stood around $90 billion in 2020-21. Millions of Indians live and work in GCC countries.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in recent years has strengthened economic ties with the energy-rich nations, the top source for country’s fuel imports.