‘It won’t affect our relationship with Africa’

Even as the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party are seeking Delhi Law Minister Somnath Bharti’s resignation for alleged racial targeting, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is busy reassuring African diplomats that the incident was an aberration.

Asked if India was embarrassed by last week’s incident in which the police refused Mr. Bharti’s directions to raid homes of Africans suspected of drug and prostitution smuggling, the Foreign Office did not give a direct answer but suggested that conclusions could be drawn from the fact that over 20 African Ambassadors were requested to come to South Block on a holiday after many of them had indicated that the hounding of Africans including some women was a matter of concern.

“They were interested in knowing the facts of the situation and they did understand and appreciate the government of India’s view and were satisfied with the reiteration of its position. They were also concerned about tendencies being reported in the media,” added MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin.

Senior MEA official Dinkar Khullar told the Ambassadors last Saturday that India’s ties with Africa were rooted in the history of common opposition to apartheid and colonialism.

“Therefore racism is anathema for us. What was done at that meeting was to immediately assuage any concerns that the incident had any racist overtones. This was a condemnable incident. We hope this would be an aberration and won’t affect our relationship with Africa, one which is held up as a beacon of South-South friendship,” said Mr. Akbaruddin.

The Ministry also assured African envoys that once details were available, it would provide them with facts of the case.

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