The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has advised its spokespersons in a set of informal internal instructions to exercise more restraint as it tries to combat the diplomatic crisis in West Asia sparked by a party leader making controversial remarks about the Prophet Muhammad last week.

Read also | Malaysia latest to ‘condemn’ remarks on Prophet, summons Indian envoy

The party has asked spokespersons to use measured language, refrain from criticizing any religion, religious figures or symbols, and not violate party ideals by being provoked into televised debates, declared senior leaders aware of the development of the situation. Only authorized leaders will be allowed to represent the party on air, they added.

One of the leaders said that some sort of directional directive was needed.

“Over the past few months, we have noticed that some party members have become more and more vocal in the media and have made frantic remarks in an attempt to get ahead and get noticed. This trend needed to be stopped,” the person added on condition of anonymity.

But the informal instructions may not have been given across the organization as many HT spokespersons denied being contacted, even if only informally.

Read also | Dispute over remark on Prophet: BJP leader gets police security

The developments came on a day when Malaysia became the latest country to condemn comments made by now-suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma last week. A handful of Muslim-majority countries in West Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia condemned the remark, representing a formidable foreign policy challenge for the government in a region where it has worked. diligently to strengthen ties.

Kuwait, Qatar and Iran summoned Indian ambassadors on Sunday to protest comments by Sharma, who was removed from his post as spokesperson and suspended by the party, and Naveen Jindal, expelled by the BJP. The Foreign Office said the comments reflected the “views of fringe elements”.

“suspension, expulsion [of spokespeople]and the public action taken in this regard was also intended to deter other leaders and send a message to all leaders to temper their language,” the leader quoted above said.

The informal instructions also advised spokespersons to check the subject of a debate and to prepare in advance, not to be “trapped” in commenting on controversial issues and to focus on defending the work of the party. .

Read also | Respect for party’s decision: Nupur Sharma after suspension following Prophet’s remarks

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Jordan, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have denounced the remarks and a senior official from the Omani Ministry of Foreign Affairs has raised the issue with the Indian ambassador. Indonesia, the Maldives and Libya also condemned the remarks. The Foreign Ministry did not respond to statements from West Asian countries, Indonesia and the GCC, but spokesman Arindam Bagchi dismissed criticism from Pakistan and the OIC.

On Tuesday, Malaysia said it “unreservedly condemns the derogatory remarks” and added that it had conveyed its “total rejection” to India’s envoy. “Malaysia calls on India to work together to end Islamophobia and cease all acts of provocation in the interest of peace and stability,” a statement from the country’s foreign ministry said.

The controversy poses a serious foreign policy challenge for the country as the bulk of India’s energy needs are met by oil and gas from West Asian countries, particularly Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The government has worked diligently in recent years to strengthen relations with the region, described as India’s extended neighborhood, and ties have improved significantly with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. West Asia was also home to some nine million expatriates before the Covid-19 crisis, and many Indians who have returned home have returned as pandemic-related restrictions have been eased.

The government has repeatedly said it has the “highest respect for all religions”, and that “offensive tweets and comments denigrating a religious figure have been made by certain individuals”. , reflect the views of the Government of India” and “strong action” had been taken against the individuals by the competent organs.

(with Reuters entries)