In the era of social media and ‘infowar’, India cannot remain a mute bystander as invectives are hurled at it using flimsy evidence or selective interpretations, says the author.
Sreeram Chaulia, Professor and Dean, Jindal School of International Affairs (JSIA), O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana.
THERE IS A straight-talking toughness in the way India is expressing itself these days on the world stage. Call it self-confidence or swagger, it is a discernible characteristic of Indian diplomacy in the Narendra Modi era. India is displaying strategic clarity in defining its national interests, articulating what it thinks in unambiguous language, and pushing back without mincing words when its choices and stances are subjected to attacks in international forums.
Leading this assertive transformation is External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, who, while defending India’s domestic and foreign policies, has shown the mirror to foreign critics. When US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, in April, “we’re monitoring some recent concerning developments in India, including a rise in human rights abuses,” Jaishankar retorted: “We also take views on other people’s human rights situation, including that of the United States.”
Adding that this particular issue was not central to the overall India-US strategic partnership, he explained that vested “interests, lobbies and vote banks” in America were driving a propaganda to smear India’s reputation. On an earlier occasion, he pointed to “liberal fundamentalism”, “prejudice and ideology” as the root causes of the anti-India campaign in the western media and said India’s “reputation is not decided by a newspaper in New York”.
When some western research institutions downgraded “the quality of democracy” in India, Jaishankar called them “self-appointed custodians of the world, who find it very difficult to stomach that somebody in India is not looking for their approval, is not willing to play the game they want to be played.” Pointing to the irony of US-based think-tanks berating India’s alleged intolerance and autocracy, he quipped that “nobody questions our election. Can you say that in those countries?” The reference was to Donald Trump’s refusal to accept Joe Biden’s election victory in 2020, and Jaishankar was conveying that India was not willing to be lectured and hectored by hypocrites.
Published in: The Week
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