May 13, 2021

NZ High Commission’s tweet for urgent oxygen supply raises storm

Indian govt asks all diplomatic missions ‘not to hoard oxygen’

An ‘urgent’ plea for oxygen cylinder by the New Zealand High Commission in New Delhi yesterday has raised a political storm in India’s capital, and resulted in Indian Government urging all diplomatic missions “not to hoard essential supplies, including oxygen”.

In a tweet (later deleted) on Sunday(2 May) morning, the NZ High Commission had directly sought “help with oxygen cylinder urgently” from IYC – the youth wing of India’s opposition party, Congress. The Commission tweeted:

New Zealand High Commission later deleted this tweet

Apparently, the reason for controversy was the request was made to affiliate of a political party, rather than the Ministry of External Affairs that looks after the diplomatic missions and their urgent medical needs.

Reasons for this ‘SOS’ could not be confirmed, but according to some unconfirmed reports, the High Commission of New Zealand has several cases of COVID-19, out of which two are serious that required oxygen support immediately.

Indian government, however, yesterday denied there was any Covid case among NZ High Commission staff.

IYC is understood to have responded to New Zealand High Commission ‘SOS’ and live-tweeted its delivery of the oxygen cylinders to its office located in the exclusive Chanakyapuri area of the capital. IYC also claimed to have supplied oxygen to the Philippines Embassy a day earlier.

IYC activists with oxygen cylinders (Twitter/@srinivasiyc)

In a prompt rebuttal, India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar termed that “this was an unsolicited supply” as “they (meaning NZ High Commission & Philippines Embassy) had no Covid cases”.

Expressing his displeasure at IYC, Jaishankar tweeted:

Indian Minister promptly termed it as ‘unsolicited supply’ (Twitter/@DrSJaishankar)

After several hours of its first tweet and a furore on social media, the NZ diplomatic mission deleted its earlier tweet and issued an apology for misinterpretation caused by previous tweet:

New tweet offered explanation & apologies (Twitter/@NZinIndia)

On the other hand, the IYC president Srinivas in his tweet claimed that they were ‘thanked’ for helping as “patient inside embassy was critically ill.”

Oxygen was claimed to be for a ‘critically ill’ patient, which was denied by MEA (Twitter/@srinivasiyc)

India’s Ministry of External Affairs on Sunday reportedly requested foreign missions not to hoard oxygen and other essential supplies.

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

Indian government and health officials have, however, repeatedly assured that country had adequate oxygen supplies, and the delay was only on account of the logistics of transportation.

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