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The Indian government has branded an article reprinted by The Australian newspaper as “malicious and slanderous” for its criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
The original article, written by Philip Sherwell, ran in Britain’s Sunday Times last Saturday and comes amid a slew critical pieces by the foreign media as India has been hit by a devastating second wave of the virus that has flooded hospitals with victims.
“What went so terribly wrong?” the article asks, citing India’s catastrophic climbing figures and slow vaccination rollout. The story criticized Modi’s leadership, accusing him of “basking” in crowds at rallies as ill citizens infected with covid-19 were failed by the government.
In a letter Monday to Christian Dore, the editor of The Australian, the Indian government slammed the publication, saying that it “undermined” authorities and that it was “unfair” to blame the country’s rising figures on a “restricted” election campaign. The letter, which was signed by India’s deputy high commissioner.
Before the new wave, Modi’s Bharata Janata Party had loudly praised his handling of the coronavirus, passing a resolution in February calling his leadership “courageous, constructive and far-sighted.”
“Not only did India keep running a successful fight against Covid, but it set an example in front of the world for what work can be done during Covid,” the resolution added. Most experts have blamed the dramatic lessening of covid restrictions and the rise of more virulent variants on the new wave.
The Indian government has shown a degree of sensitivity to criticism during the new outbreak, including petitioning Twitter to remove tweets critical of the government’s handling of the crisis.