Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar (left) and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal (right) | PTI/Twitter
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New Delhi: In a major diplomatic embarrassment, the Singapore government Wednesday “called in” Indian High Commissioner P. Kumaran and conveyed “strong objection” to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s purported ‘Singapore variant’ remark in reference to a Covid strain that the latter said could bring a “third wave” to India.

“Singapore Government called in our High Commissioner today to convey strong objection to Delhi CM’s tweet on “Singapore variant”. High Commissioner clarified that Delhi CM had no competence to pronounce on Covid variants or civil aviation policy,” Arindam Bagchi, Spokesperson, Ministry of External Affairs said in a tweet Wednesday.

This came after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore issued a statement saying the country “regrets the unfounded assertions made on Facebook and Twitter by Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal that a variant of COVID-19 found in Singapore was particularly harmful to children and could cause a third wave of infections in India”.

“MFA is disappointed that a prominent political figure had failed to ascertain the facts before making such claims. MFA met the High Commissioner of India P Kumaran this morning to express these concerns,” it added.

Reiterating their health ministry’s statement that was issued Tuesday, the MFA said there is “no Singapore variant”. “The strain prevalent in many of the COVID-19 cases in recent weeks is the B.1.617.2 variant, which was first detected in India.”

Meanwhile, lashing out at Kejriwal, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said the Delhi CM “does not speak for India” while he stressed on India and Singapore being “solid partners.”

“Singapore and India have been solid partners in the fight against Covid-19. Appreciate Singapore’s role as a logistics hub and oxygen supplier. Their gesture of deploying military aircraft to help us speaks of our exceptional relationship,” Jaishankar tweeted tagging Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Singapore.

“However, irresponsible comments from those who should know better can damage long-standing partnerships. So, let me clarify- Delhi CM does not speak for India,” Jaishankar said.

Also read: Now Singapore links growing number of infections to coronavirus variant from India


What Delhi CM Kejriwal said on variant found in Singapore

On Tuesday, Kejriwal had said in a tweet in Hindi the “new variant” of coronavirus that has came to Singapore is being said to be extremely dangerous for children, and that it could come to India as a third wave.

The CM also appealed to the government that air services between Singapore and India be cancelled with immediate effect and vaccine options should be worked out for children on priority.

While the Aam Admi Party government in Delhi has not yet responded to the MEA statement, party member Abhijeet Dipke tweeted: “.@MEAIndia wasted no time to ridicule CM @ArvindKejriwal’s concern over the new variant affecting children. Ignoring the ground reality of Singapore which is shutting down schools.”

On Tuesday, a spokesperson of Singapore’s health ministry said, “There is no truth whatsoever in the assertions found within the reports. There is no ‘Singapore variant’… The strain that is prevalent in many of the Covid-19 cases in recent weeks is the B16172 variant, which originated in India. Phylogenetic testing has shown this B16172 variant to be associated with several clusters in Singapore.”

(With inputs from Aneesha Bedi)

Also read: Prepare for third wave, keep stocks of key Covid drugs ready, Modi govt tells pharma firms


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