In its responses to the diplomatic storm over the comments made by BJP leaders Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar, the government took a stern view of the statement by the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), but it subsequently made a special effort at ensuring that Indian Ambassadors based in every OIC country were briefed and sent “talking points” to deal with the situation on June 5.
Significantly, the reference to the leaders as “fringe elements” was not in the brief by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), sources said. It had possibly emerged from a telephone conversation and was used “mistakenly” in the press statements issued by the embassies in Doha and Kuwait.
The phrase had caused some consternation within the MEA as well as among officials in the countries that lodged protests against the comments, as it appeared to be misleading, given that Ms. Sharma and Mr. Kumar were prominent leaders of the BJP before the party took action against them. “The initial press statements wrongly described them as fringe elements,” an official said, adding that the intention of the phrase was to convey that the views they had expressed were “views of the fringe, not the government or the party”.
The six-point memo was sent to all the heads of mission (HOMs) in OIC countries on Sunday, hours after the Ambassadors in Qatar and Kuwait were summoned.
The missive, cleared by Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra, and sent by the MEA’s Gulf Division, a copy of which The Hindu has seen, told them to “monitor the developments and report them promptly” to New Delhi. It also counselled them to draft a statement in case they were summoned by the host government, which made all the points: that the Indian government respects all religions; that the comments denigrating a religious personality did not represent the government or the BJP, that “strong action” had been taken against those making the comments, and that the BJP had issued its own press release reiterating these points.