War of Words: Centre rejects Delhi CM’s remarks on ‘Singapore strain’, says no authority or competence over the issue
A war of words has ensued after Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal commented on the “Singapore strain” that has upset diplomats and Singaporean authorities. Centre, in a bid to brush off the matter without impacting diplomatic and strategic tie with the close ally, has called off the comments by Kejriwal saying he “does not speak for India”.
On Tuesday Singapore government had rejected Kejriwal’s comments that the Singapore strain of Covid-19 might affect children at large and bring in the third wave in India. A day after the exchange, Centre on Wednesday said that Delhi CM had “no competence to pronounce on Covid variants or civil aviation policy”. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said that “irresponsible comments from those who should know better can damage long-standing partnerships”.
Kejriwal on Tuesday had appealed Centre to immediately halt air services to Singapore in the context of a new strain of novel coronavirus in Singapore. In a tweet, Kejriwal had said, “A new variant of coronavirus found in Singapore is being said to be very dangerous for children. This can usher in the third wave (of COVID-19) in India. I appeal to the Central government to immediately halt air services with Singapore, and work on developing a vaccine for children on a priority basis.”
Tuesday night, the Health Ministry of Singapore denied the claim and 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 B.1.617.2 variant, which originated in India. Phylogenetic testing has shown this B.1.617.2 variant to be associated with several clusters in Singapore.”
Ministry of External Affairs official spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, “Singapore Government called in our High Commissioner today to convey strong objection to Delhi CM’s tweet on “Singapore variant”. The High Commissioner clarified that the Delhi CM had no competence to pronounce on Covid variants or civil aviation policy.”
Responding to remarks by Centre, Delhi’s Deputy CM Manish Sisodia has accused BJP of engaging in “cheap politics”. He said, “Centre is worried about its image in Singapore but not about children under threat from COVID strain. It did not consider alerts about COVID London strain and many lost their family members due to it.”