New Delhi: An Iranian statement that quoted Indian National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval as having reassured the visiting Iranian foreign minister that the Indian government and its officials respected the Holy Prophet — and that New Delhi would be tough with “wrongdoers” — was pulled down on Thursday, a day after it was issued.
Wednesday’s readout by the Foreign Ministry of Iran said that minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, who is on a short visit to India, had raised with Doval the issue of controversial remarks about the Prophet Muhammad made by two former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) functionaries, and called for “serious attention to Muslims’ sensitivities”.
“Referring to the negative atmosphere created by some people in disrespecting the holy site of the Prophet of Islam, the Indian official reiterated the respect of the Indian government and officials for the Holy Prophet. Wrongdoers will be dealt with at the level of the government and related bodies in a way that is a lesson to others,” the statement read.
The statement, which was issued only in Persian, further said that NSA Doval emphasised the “need for comprehensive expansion of relations” between the two countries, including the “need to create a strategic committee to expand relations in all fields and the readiness of the Indian government” to develop relations at “all levels — bilateral, multilateral and regional”.
The fact that the statement was taken down was confirmed by Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson, Ministry of External Affairs, during a press conference Thursday.
“I usually don’t like to comment on (talks) between senior dignitaries, and certainly on the NSA and the Iranian foreign minister I would not like to comment on what their conversation was. My understanding is that the readout (by Iranian foreign ministry) has been pulled down,” Bagchi said.
On the larger issue of Indian products and Indians living in Islamic countries facing a backlash in the wake of the diplomatic row, Bagchi added that India would “continue to monitor the situation” so that the Indian community and Indian interests “remain protected”.
He also said that, “We have made it pretty clear the tweets and comments (against the Prophet) do not convey the views of the government. This has been conveyed to our interlocutors as also the fact that action has been taken by the quarters concerned against those who made the comments and tweets”.
Amir-Abdollahian, who was visiting Mumbai, tweeted Thursday that both sides had agreed on the “need to respect divine religions & Islamic sanctities & to avoid divisive statements”.
Pleased to meet PM Modi, FM Jaishankar & other Indian officials to advance our bilateral strategic dialogue.
Tehran & New Delhi agree on the need to respect divine religions & Islamic sanctities & to avoid divisive statements.
🇮🇷🇮🇳 determined to bring relations to new heights.
— H.Amirabdollahian امیرعبداللهیان (@Amirabdolahian) June 8, 2022
ThePrint reached out to the the Iranian embassy in New Delhi via text messages, but had not received a response by the time this article was published.
Last Sunday, Iran joined Qatar and Kuwait in summoning the Indian ambassadors to register their protest against the anti-Prophet remarks.
The Ministry of External Affairs had termed the BJP functionaries “fringe elements” in response to the countries that had summoned Indian envoys Sunday.
Iranian foreign minister meets Muslim clerics, scholars
In Mumbai, Amir-Abdollahian met Muslim clerics and religious scholars from both the Shia and Sunni sects of Islam.
“Islamic scholars have a historical role in India and the Islamic world and (in) their protection and efforts to promote Imam Khomeini’s lofty ideas, including supporting the oppressed and denying separation from religion,” said a readout by Iran’s foreign ministry issued Thursday.
Iran’s foreign minister told the clerics that, during his meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Doval, he was reassured that the Muslim community is respected in India. He also said that Iran will always “stand by the Muslim community of India”.
“Regarding the insult to the Holy Prophet of Islam, Dr Amir-Abdollahian expressed his deep regret over this unfortunate incident and condemned the insult to the holy site of the great Prophet of Islam,” the readout said.
It added: “Such unspeakable voices are not appropriate for India and do not originate in India, and certainly followers of all religions in India are opposed to these statements, and this is a point that has been made and heard explicitly and in various ways by the Indian authorities during this trip.”
In Mumbai, Amir-Abdollahian also met businessmen and exporters from both the private and public sectors, and said that India and Iran are working out a payment mechanism through UCO Bank in order to skirt American sanctions. The meeting was hosted by the Federation of Indian Export Organisations.
(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)