India has mounted a diplomatic offensive in the Gulf Arab states to tamp down a potential communal problem fuelled by social media outrage and fake Twitter handles, which could have impacted not only Indians living in Gulf Arab states but also between governments, given that the Modi government has invested deeply in its relations with the Arab world.

In the past 24 hours, foreign minister S Jaishankar spoke personally to his counterparts across the Arab world to reassure them, even as Indian diplomats worked overtime to expose the fake social media posts that fuelled this controversy.

India has also assured all assistance to these countries, particularly as India has refused to bring back its nationals who are stranded in these countries until after May 3 when the national lockdown ends.

The condition of the stranded Indians will continue to be a matter of concern, as their return even after may 3 could result in 15-day quarantines for them. Jaishankar’s conversations come after PM Modi spoke to his counterparts in the Gulf and other parts of the Islamic world.

MEA sources said Jaishankar reassured Gulf countries that India would ensure adequate food supplies to the Gulf during the muslim holy month of Ramzan, referring to “special efforts made by us to ensure uninterrupted supply of these items to these countries.”

India also recommitted to supplies of hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Egypt and Palestine. “These supplies are taking place both as humanitarian aid and on a commercial basis.”

On a different note, though, the Indian government has had to scramble to reverse some of the ill-will being created on social media. Munu Mahawar, India’s ambassador to Oman in an interview “urged Indians living in Oman not to get distracted by fake news on social media.

“India and Oman share a very special relationship based on mutual understanding and trust,” he said. Mahawar’s statement comes a day after a fake message that was posted through an impersonated Twitter account attributed to Her Highness Sayyida Mona bint Fahd Al Said, went viral among the Indian community in the country. The princess later clarified that it was a fake handle.

India’s ambassador to UAE, Pawan Kapoor had tweeted a similar message of communal harmony a few days ago, after several Twitter posts emerged quoting Hindus blaming Muslims for the spread of COVID in India. This has been a cause of communal tension in India after the Tablighi Jamaat episode in late March.

On Friday, Jaishankar spoke to Riad Al Malki, foreign minister of Palestine, after speaking to Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed foreign minister of UAE. “Pandemics further highlight the need for international cooperation. Few better examples than our relationship with #UAE. Applaud the generosity of spirit and clarity of policy that has characterized its approach.”

He has spoken to the foreign minister of Qatar, as well as of Oman, arguably India’s closest neighbor in the Gulf. “Very pleased to speak with FM Yusuf Alawi. Appreciated #Oman’s taking care of the Indian community there.

As trusted partners, assured him of India’s support in the collective fight against #coronavirus.”

On Thursday, Jaishankar spoke to the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, tweeting, “Appreciated the very warm conversation with HH Prince Faisal, FM of #SaudiArabia. Thanked him for taking care of the Indian community there. Discussed our shared interest in ensuring the health and food security.

India will remain a reliable partner.” With the onset of the Muslim holy month of Ramzan and the world in the middle of a deadly pandemic, the last thing India needs is a communal outburst.

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