Prime Minister Narendra Modi has written to his counterparts in several nations in South, South-East and West Asia, greeting them on the occasion of the Eid-al-Adha and personally reached out to them weeks after comments made by two BJP leaders on Prophet Mohammed, which triggered international outrage.
Modi mentioned in his letters to the leaders of the Islamic nations that the festival was being celebrated by over 200 million Muslims in India.
The move is also being seen as a move by India to counter the allegations by Pakistan and some western nations as well as human rights organisations about growing religious intolerance in India, particularly against Muslims.
He sent Eid-al-Adha greetings to Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamam bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. He also extended festive greetings to President Ebrahim Raisi of Iran and to Kuwait’s Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.
The governments of Qatar, Kuwait and Iran had summoned India's envoys to Doha and Tehran early last month to lodge protest against the comments made by Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal – both leaders of the ruling BJP – about Prophet Mohammed.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia and Malaysia and several other nations across South, South-East and West Asia also either summoned India’s envoys in the respective capitals or conveyed displeasure though diplomatic channels over the remarks made by Jindal and Sharma about Prophet Muhammad.
India sought to soothe the ruffled feathers by playing down the remarks as the ones made by fringe elements and conveying to Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iran and other nations that the comments did not reflect the views of the Government of India.
Sharma was suspended and Jindal was expelled from the BJP.
Modi’s letters to the leaders of the Islamic nations appeared to be an attempt by the Centre to make sure that the row over the comments made by Sharma and Jindal did not have any long-term impact on India’s relations with those countries.
The prime minister wrote to King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia, conveying Eid greetings on behalf of the people of India. He mentioned in the letter that the Eid-al-Adha spread the universal message of love, piety, sacrifice and forgiveness. He also conveyed his greetings to Crown Prince and Deputy Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, apart from praying for “progress, prosperity and well-being of the friendly people of Saudi Arabia”.
He also wrote to leaders of Malaysia and Indonesia, conveying festive greetings.