Sudan violence: MEA tears into Congress attempt to politicise threat to stranded Indians

Indian Minister of External Affairs Dr S Jaishankar has given a stern reply to Karnataka Congress leader and ex-chief minister Siddaramaiah, telling him “there are lives at stake; don’t do politics”, on the situation of 31 Karnataka tribals stuck in violence-rocked Sudan, in the northeastern part of Africa.

A scene of explosion in Sudan. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@Reuters

Though conflicts are common in African nations, the recent violence in Sudan has been particularly intense, with around 200 dead and more than 1,800 injured in just over three days of fighting. Gunfire continued today despite claims of an armistice. In this scenario, given that evacuation attempts could be more dangerous than staying put, the Ministry of External Affairs has advised all Indians in Sudan to stay indoors and ration their supplies.

Yesterday, Congress leader Siddaramaiah, who was chief minister of Karnataka from 2013 to 2018 and is the current Leader of the Opposition in the poll-bound state, urged the Central government to ensure the safe return of 31 people from the state’s Hakki Pikki tribe who are stuck in Sudan. He soon tweeted again, blaming the government for not doing enough.

He posted: “Hakki Pikkis in Sudan are left stranded without food since the last few days & the govt is yet to initiate action to bring them back. @BJP4India govt should immediately open diplomatic discussions & reach out to international agencies to ensure the well-being of Hakki Pikkis.”

The remark comes against the backdrop of Karnataka Assembly elections taking place in May, when the opposition Congress fights the ruling BJP.

Reacting to Siddaramaiah’s attempt to make the situation of Indians in Sudan a state-level issue, Jaishankar posted: “Simply appalled at your tweet! There are lives at stake; don’t do politics. Since the fighting started on April 14th, the Embassy of India in Khartoum has been continuously in touch with most Indian Nationals and PIOs in Sudan.”

To this, Siddaramaiah shot back: “Since you are the External Affairs Minister @DrSJaishankar, I have appealed you for help. If you are busy getting appalled, please point us to the person who can help us bring our people back.”

Twitterati were divided over the spat. While some felt that Jaishankar was incorrect to describe this appeal as doing politics, others felt that such an appeal from Siddaramaiah could have been made in private, if it was really concern for the people and not for election advantage.

Siddaramaiah and S Jaishankar. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@siddamaiah and @DrSJaishankar

One user named Peacefully Political tweeted to Siddaramaiah: “Being a senior leader, you surely had a 1000 other ways to ‘appeal’ to the minister but of course given that elections are a few weeks away, you chose to do it through social media. Says a lot about the extent of desperation in the party and the maturity within.”

What is happening in Sudan?

The African nation is seeing a violent power struggle, as General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, commander of the armed forces, fights General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, leader of the paramilitary group Rapid Support Forces, for control over the country.

Figures of the dead and the injured were released yesterday by the United Nations special representative for Sudan. The news agency Agence France-Presse gave a higher number, reporting that fighting continued on the fourth day of the ‘armistice’.

One of the latest reports from the news agency Reuters said that African leaders — William Ruto (Kenya), Salva Kiir (South Sudan), and Ismail Omar Guele (Djibouti) — would arrive in the conflict-hit region soon for a mediation attempt.

Looting and killing are widespread, despite international calls urging both sides to back down. Citizens and expatriate residents alike are in grave danger from the fighting, especially if they venture out.