India's Africa outreach seemed in jeopardy on Monday after African envoys rebuked India, describing the Greater Noida mob violence against Nigerians+ as "xenophobic and racial", and India tersely rejected the statement as unfortunate and unwarranted.
The African nations, who also called for a probe by the UN Human Rights Council, were scathing in their indictment of the government over incidents of race violence and said India had taken "no known, sufficient and visible deterring measures" to prevent violence against Africans.
But the developments took a new turn late on Monday when Indian sources rejected the claim that African nations had spoken in one voice. "It is understood that a very small number of African heads of missions may have been consulted in the issuance of the press release by the African heads of missions dean (the Eritrean ambassador)," the sources said. Some prominent heads of missions denied attending the meeting or being consulted.
After offering no comments through the day, the government's official response rejected the statement put out by African nations. "It is unfortunate that a criminal act triggered following the untimely death of a young Indian student under suspicious circumstances has been termed as xenophobic and racial," the MEA said.
Besides dismissing the claim that the violence was racially motivated, the MEA said local authorities had expeditiously arrested suspects and the government had condemned and described the attack as unacceptable. Significantly, the MEA said the statement had been issued by the Eritrean ambassador, who is also the dean of the African heads of missions, "apparently issued on their behalf".
Rebutting the charge that India had not taken steps to secure Africans, the statement said, "Local authorities have also taken measures to strengthen safety and security of Nigerian nationals. Coordination meetings have been held by local police in Delhi as well as Greater Noida, with African nationals."
The statement issued by the dean of the African heads of missions, after a meeting of African envoys in which they reviewed all recent incidents of violence against Africans, however, was clearly critical of the government's reluctance to describe the incident as a race crime and demanded strong condemnation from the "highest political level".
The government, in fact, has continued to maintain that no such conclusion should be arrived at until the probe into the mob violence was complete. This only seems to have further angered the African envoys, who went on to say in the statement that the attacks on African nationals had not been "sufficiently condemned'' by Indian authorities.
After the Greater Noida violence, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj had tweeted that she had spoken to UP CM Yogi Aditya Nath and sought a report. She also said the CM had promised a fair probe. A few days later, the incident resonated in Parliament where opposition parties and Rajya Sabha deputy chairman P J Kurien expressed concern over the attacks.
Times of India, April 4, 2017