War of words breaks out between Jaishankar and Jairam over oxygen supply to two foreign missions

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New Delhi, May 2 (PTI) External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Congress leader Jairam Ramesh were on Sunday locked in a war of words on social media over the supply of medical oxygen to two foreign embassies apparently by volunteers of the Youth Congress for COVID-19 patients.

Jaishankar hit out at Ramesh in response to his tweet saying the youth wing of the Congress was attending to SOS calls from foreign embassies and wondering whether the MEA was 'sleeping'.

The minister said that the MEA checked with the Philippines embassy and they had no COVID case.

In the midst of the exchanges between Jaishankar and Ramesh, the Ministry of External Affairs said it is in continuous touch with all foreign embassies in India and responding to their medical demands, especially those related to COVID-19.

MEA Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the response to medical demands of the embassies included facilitating treatment in a hospital even as he urged all not to hoard essential supplies including oxygen.

In his tweet late last night, Ramesh also shared a video posted on Twitter by Indian Youth Congress national president Srinivas B V that showed a mini pickup van entering the embassy of the Philippines in Delhi, carrying oxygen cylinders.

Srinivasan also shared a video of supplying oxygen cylinders by his team to the New Zealand high commission and thanked the IYC team for the quick relief.

'MEA checked with the Philippines Embassy. This was an unsolicited supply as they had no Covid cases. Clearly for cheap publicity by you know who. Giving away cylinders like this when there are people in desperate need of oxygen is simply appalling,' Jaishankar tweeted.

'Jairamji, MEA never sleeps; our people know across the world. MEA also never fakes; we know who does,' he said in another tweet.

Ramesh last night said: 'While I thank @IYC for its stellar efforts, as an Indian citizen I'm stunned that the youth wing of the opposition party is attending to SOS calls from foreign embassies. Is the MEA sleeping @DrSJaishankar?' Following the comments by the external affairs minister, the Youth Congress tweeted that it got a request for an urgent requirement of oxygen cylinders for two COVID-19 patients in the Philippines embassy.

'The Cylinders were delivered at the embassy on a much-solicited request. Post-delivery embassy thanked us on Facebook,' it said while sharing screenshots of some exchanges with the embassy.

Tagging the post, Ramesh later tweeted, 'What say you now, Mr. Minister? @DrSJaishankar.' The New Zealand high commission reportedly deleted its tweet reaching out to Srinivas seeking oxygen, and later put out a fresh post.

'We are trying all sources to arrange for oxygen cylinders urgently and our appeal has unfortunately been misinterpreted, for which we are sorry,' it said.

In his statement, Bagchi said the MEA is responding to the medical demands by the foreign missions.

'The chief of protocol and heads of divisions are in continuous touch with all high commissions/embassies and MEA is responding to their medical demands, especially those related to Covid. This includes facilitating their hospital treatment,' he said.

'Given the pandemic situation, all are urged not to hoard essential supplies, including oxygen,' Bagchi said responding to media queries.

Hospitals across the national capital are reeling under a severe shortage of medical oxygen in view of a massive surge in COVID-19 cases. PTI MPB RT RT