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Sushma Swaraj Apologizes for Saying Narendra Modi Addressed ‘Indians’ in Nepal

Sushma Swaraj

Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on May 28 issued an apology for saying that Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed lakhs of “Indians” in Nepal’s Janakpur recently.

She posted her apology on Twitter after social media users, including a Nepal parliamentarian, pointed out that Modi addressed Nepali people, not Indians, in Janakpur earlier this month.

“This was a mistake on my part. I sincerely apologize for this,” Swaraj tweeted, along with a video of her comment. She had earlier said that Modi had addressed Indians in Janakpur, while trying to illustrate his efforts at diaspora outreach, during a press conference held on the occasion of fourth anniversary of the National Democratic Alliance government earlier on May 28.

“Narendra Modi is the first prime minister of the country who has from America’s Madison Square to Janakpur (in Nepal) addressed lakhs of Indians and reached out to them,” Swaraj had said.

Nepali Congress leader and parliamentarian Gagan Thapa called out Swaraj’s comments, and asked if the tweet was a “casual undermining of Nepal’s sovereignty.”

He tweeted: “Regrettable that India’s External Affairs Minister @SushmaSwaraj described Janakpur’s population that @narendramodi greeted as Indians. One wonders what the confusion was, or if this was casual undermining of Nepal’s sovereignty.”

Janakpur is a part of the Madhes region in Nepal, where a large number of Nepalis of Indian origin live. The Nepal government had once accused India of backing the Madhesi movement.

Meanwhile, Swaraj answered several questions on issues such as India’s foreign policy, Pakistan relations, UN sanctions on Iran and relationship with China, during her the annual press conference.

She said that the Indian government is trying a “three-pronged approach” to stop the rollback of H-4 visa work permits being planned by the Trump administration. “We are talking to the White House, we are talking to the state administration, and we are also talking to congressmen and senators,” she said, adding that 130 Congress members and Senators have written a letter to the U.S. president, urging him not to revoke H-4 visa work permits.

“We are trying our best to save H1-B visas, H4 visas. But America is a sovereign country. Ultimately, they have to decide. How successful we will be, will be decided in the future. But I assure the country from this platform that we would not spare any effort,” Swaraj said.

She also spoke of Modi’s retort to UK Prime Minister Theresa May when it came to extradition of fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya. The UK courts had said that they need to look into the condition of Indian jails first. “I need to say that these are the same jails where you had kept Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru and India’s big leaders. So it’s not right for your courts to raise questions about those jails,” she quoted Modi as saying to May at a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Summit in London last month.