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Modi’s Policies are downgrading India’s Major-Power Ambition in the International System

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India’s aspiration toward achieving a ‘major power’ status will only be achieved with the possibility of building a strong economy not being a contested factor. A stable economy can support with adequate funds to the defense department, stand with the government’s aspiration to strengthen its military but not by ruling the elites’ flaw words. The best example would be the double-digit growth of China’s economy during the 1980s and 2000s, which supported Beijing to allot the required resources to eject millions from poverty, and build a strong military.

The BJP got a clear mandate from the people in the 2014 general elections with the expectations of delivering inclusive growth. During that campaign, Prime Ministerial Candidate Narandera Modi’s large part of the message to the voters was on development agenda based on the Gujarat model. Moreover, he has successfully sold out this story to the Indian voters without explaining what the Gujarat model is. Therefore, he came to power. People of this country have enthusiastically been waiting for the last three and a half years expecting to get benefits from Prime Minister Modi’s administration on the basis of the so called Gujarat model of development; instead they are roasting by imposing of demonetization and without proper preparations they implemented the GST. Now people of this country gradually postulate the Gujarat model and have realized that Gujarat model means continuous lies and giving long speeches without any action. The funny thing was that the voters were completely disappointed while Modi missed his last chance in explaining about the model during the 2017 Gujarat assembly elections. Modi had spoken in more meetings and rallies in Gujarat but dare to pronounce that in any of the meetings about the Gujarat model of development. It undoubtedly demonstrates that Gujarat model is nothing but Modi’s deceived politics. Even the former BJP’s government finance and external affairs minister, Yeswant Sinha, has been rising specific doubts and slammed the finance minister in handling the Indian economy. This mismanagement and the alliance between Modi and the finance minister Arun Jaitley, completely erase the hope of India’s rise.

In this article I am analyzing how the policies of Prime Minister Narandera Modi and his government are downgrading India’s Major Power Ambitions.

Economy

The recent economic survey of 2017-18 under the Modi administration shows disappointments and has devastated the people’s hopes. It gave us a cautious warning and forced to presume that the finance minister had not delivered up to the expected line. P. Chidambaram, the former finance minister of India, underlined the economic survey and said, “It is a depressing report and the future course of the economy is conditional on many ifs.” It indicates the economy is not under the control of this government. This government’s visionary path has no clear agenda. Since the next year will be the election year, therefore, the ruling elites are in waiting to throw away the responsibility on the external environment if the expected growth rate does not reach out in the next financial year. If you look into the report by applying your mind more closely, you will draw a finale that the BJP government’s complete failure on health, education, employment and agriculture. Moreover, they are continuously in preaching on shadow development with extraordinary lies. The recent by-elections in Rajasthan demonstrate that the people of this country are not in a position to completely take these flaw words any more from the BJP leaders.

The recent budget did not consider the important sectors of the country: healthcare and education. A lot of decorations are dancing on the budget without legs. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s magic did not even take off during these four years. He got a wonderful opportunity to prove that he is better than the Congress Party economic captains. But so far the BJP economic manager has failed to attain that title. The announcement of minimum support price to agriculture sector raises many questions. “While China and Pakistan spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense, India spends it on the allocation of accounts for just 1.58 percent of the GDP, which is the lowest in 50 years in terms of percentage of GDP” (firstpost.com). Many policy announcements are left without allotments of fund. In the last four years the fall in the global oil price was not allowed to be shared with the poor people of this country whereas it was effectively settled with the corporate tycoons. Hence, the budget considerably fails in keeping the spirit of the people those who have voted for Modi hopefully. This budget especially carries the increase of lip service of optimism but not walk the talk of Modi.

The average growth rate achieved in the UPA government was around 7.5 percent although the world was experiencing the impact of the ‘Lehman Brothers’ melting down in the United States. The economic team in the UPA government did a wonderful job in maintaining the constituency of the growth of the Indian economy. It means the economy was under the control of the UPA economic team, led by the former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. For this reason the economy was not distracted; while the external environment, especially the world banking sector, was completely on the down fall since 2008.

The expected growth rate of the last financial year was not achieved. Hence, there is no policy guarantee that the projected growth rate will be reached out in the next financial year. The policy of demonetization killed more than 100 innocent people and destroyed local businesses, which led millions to be kicked out from their jobs. It fails to serve its purpose but Modi has not yet apologized to the people of this country with regard to the imposition of demonetization. The large youth that once supported Modi’s development model are now pushed to sell ‘Pakodas’. Modi had promised to the youth of this country during the campaign that his government will produce two crores jobs annually. The Congress Party raised this question in the parliament but no direct answer was given from either Arun Jaitley or Modi. Instead, Modi unleashed a one-hour preaching session with wrong inputs from history. But the youth of this country are asking for jobs and not unwanted words. The civil war in Syria leads to 10 lakhs of its citizens to migrate to Europe as refugees. The poor administration of the BJP ruling states leads to internal migration, shoving the daily wage workers to get away from their home states for their livelihood, forced to work for lesser salaries and in a low quality of work atmosphere in other states.

Continuous False promises and deception politics

Who said this government is free from corruption? Modi had promised that his government will be free from corruption. Mr.Yediurappa, the former Chief Minister of Karnataka, is facing serious corruption charges however; the BJP has proposed him as the chief minister candidate for the upcoming 2018 assembly elections. The ill-advisedly implemented demonetization itself is an organized loot. Urging to implement unsustainable port projects is raising serious doubts on its economic feasibilities. How has Amit Shah’s son’s profit increased to 300% in these three and a half years? Modi had said all the black money from the Swiss Bank will be brought to India and 15 lakhs will be deposited in every poor Indians account. What happened to this promise? Vijay Mallya, Lalit Modi and now Nirav Modi are allowed to loot India’s banks under this administration and show a smooth exit to escape from this country. The former Union minister, Kapil Sibal, says, “The banking system is drift, core baking had escaped the SWIFT and depositors are truly miffed.” Why the increase in Rafael deal has no answer from the Prime Minister? Scams after scams darken the face of this government. Therefore, they are declining to face the opposition’s questions with regard to corruptions.

The BJP government is run by bureaucrats and not by elected representatives. It is really funny that a minister who has failed to achieve to improve India’s exports is appointed as Defense Minister. You cannot simply say by appointing a woman, it means she’s equal to Indira Gandhi. It is true that the Congress President Shri. Rahul Gandhi said in his interview to the National Herold – the BJP led NDA’s ministers capacity cannot be compared with the Congress led UPA’s minister’s capabilities. Commonsense, rationality and wider consultations are missing and replaced by ill thoughts, arrogance and foolishness. ‘Gau Rakshaks’ are getting more respects than a investor in the BJP ruling states.

China Factor and Immediate Neighbors

Trade deficit with China is an issue but this government doesn’t have a solution since 2014. The way the Dokulam standoff was diffused indicating our vulnerability. Why do Indian troops withdraw first from the tri junction? We are still receiving information that the Chinese deployment in the tri junction was not completely windup. Modi’s recent visit to the state of Arunachal Pradesh was reacted by the Chinese mouthpiece but amicable response from New Delhi would not be a strategic response to the assertive China.

Last three and a half years ceasefire violations have been demonstrated by Pakistan and we lost more brave soldiers. I can strongly accuse this administration without any hesitations by saying Modi has allowed the cross border trade to be replaced by increase in cross border terrorism. The BJP’s highly politicized for political gains ‘surgical strike’ should have been demonstrated again. Why the government did not go for another ‘surgical strike’?  Does the prime minister have any policy to contain Pakistan? Under Modi’s leadership witnessed India’s relations with Pakistan completely down to an unprecedented new low.

Maldives crisis would be an opportunity for India to demonstrate to the world that we are serious to gain our scores in the international power system.  So far the Maldives issue is concerned that the Modi government’s approaches are not commendable, and gradually spares spaces for the Chinese to intrude in the East Indian Ocean, which is a big policy mistake. This is the Chinese provocative approach. Any part of the Indian Ocean is not part of the disputed South China Sea. This is our theater and it is our responsibility to uphold the law and order in and around this region.

In all these issues the world and the other major powers in the Asia region and in West are seriously watching and keeping their eyes on us about the way we demonstrate our responsibilities in maintaining the order in our region. If we fail to restore democracy in Male, this will send an unprecedented wrong wave that if anyone of these nations dethroned their democratic setup would be safe without any third party interference because New Delhi has no strategic trajectory to respond China.

Conclusion

Keeping the 2019 general elections in mind, Modi has started generating new lies. Now he has shifted his goal post from Gujarat Model to ‘New India.’ Again no one knows what he means. However, this new catchphrase has lost its sound due to the recent Gujarat state election results. The Prime Minister failed to understand a stable economy only support a country’s defense posture not by his blank narratives. His long sermons are now boring the youth of this country and all of his holiday visits abroad will not give any breakthrough in keeping India’s interest alive in the international power system. Inadequate funds to defense modernization, loss to the exchequer in the major defense deals, scientific loots, and incapable ministers in the Modi’s cabinet gradually expose its inability to face the challenges. Now the point is very clear – in these four years Modi’s government and his political managers proved they are the kings of verbal singers not suitable for policy articulations.

Finally, to sum up our discussion on the above analysis demonstrating that Modi’s deception politics will not stay longer: Soft speaking approaches with wise policy implementations are more trust worthy than deceptive loud speaking voices in the international system. The flaw policies of this government causes heavy damages to the economy, the assurance of corruption free governance is under scanner, continuous false promises like ‘Ache Din’ to ‘New India’ slogans, trust deficit created to security matters in maintaining tranquility and peace in our western borders, setbacks in articulating diplomacy in responds to China and the failures in keeping our immediate flocks closely with us have proved the ruling elites incompetence to run a government. Hence, under this government the projection of India’s ‘Major Power’ aspiration is really downward sloping.

Antony Clement is a Senior Editor (Indo-Pacific), Modern Diplomacy, an online journal. He is a researcher in Indian Foreign Policy. He is currently working on two books - “The Best Teacher” and “Diplomacy in Tough Times”. His research centres on India’s diplomacy & foreign policy and extends to domestic politics, economic policy, security issues, and international security matters, including India’s relations with the US, the BRICS nations, the EU and Australia. His recent book is “Discover your talents.”

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South Asia

The Taliban-Afghanistan Dilemmas

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Source: Twitter

The Blitzkrieg winning back of Afghanistan by the Taliban with the concomitant US pullout established Taliban 2.0 in Kabul. But this has created a number of dilemmas for the stakeholding states. The latter include Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours, viz. Iran in the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, China in the northeast and Pakistan to the east. Russia is also affected since it considers former Central Asian Soviet republics like Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as its backyard and since Moscow has its own share of extremist-secessionist problems in Chechnya. It is also worried about Islamic fundamentalism spreading to its Muslim population concentrated around its major cities and the Caucasus.

The dilemmas are as follows:

I. If the US-led withholding of economic aid and international recognition continues in essence, then conditions– as it is they are bad enough in Afghanistan—will further deteriorate. This will lead to greater hunger, unemployment and all-round economic deprivation of the masses. Such dystopia will generate more refugees in droves as well as terrorists who will spill out to seek greener pastures beyond the country’s borders.

Such condition will in turn mean a life-threatening headache for not only Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours like Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, China and Pakistan but also for more distant lands. The liberal democracies of Europe. Germany, France, Italy, the UK and others have already had their share of refugees—and terrorists—when waves from an unsettled Syria hit them way back in 2015. Chancellor Angela Merkel even decided to act magnanimously and opened Germany’s doors to a million fleeing the civil war in Syria. Such acceptance of refugees from Asia and Africa in Europe, however, boosted right-wing parties like the Alternative for Germany (AfD) and other movements throughout that continent. As a result the easy cross-border movements within the European Union came to be partly restricted in order to keep unwanted refugees out. Calls went out for hardening the external borders of the EU against more refugee invasion. The EU also made arrangements with Turkey to absorb and manage the refugee onrush in exchange for fat amounts of the Euro.

The prospects of a second such wave of refugees desperate not only to escape the clutches of the medieval Taliban but to find a promising future and remarkably better living conditions in the advanced lands of Europe are giving nightmares to the governments of the latter countries.

There seems to be a growing consensus among many in the international community that not only purely humanitarian but also larger economic aid to the Taliban-run Afghanistan should be extended—and without delay, if only to keep a lid on refugees—and terrorists—spilling across the borders. Islamabad apparently scored a remarkable ‘victory’ over New Delhi when its protégé Taliban replaced the pro-Indian Ghani government. Nevertheless, it is worried about the spillover into its territory across the Durand Line to its west. Pakistan, hence, leads this school of thought most vociferously[i]. It fenced its border with Afghanistan to a significant extent in anticipation of more refugees pouring in.  It has been joined in the chorus by Russia, the EU, China, and others. China, for instance, has emphasized the need for releasing funds to Afghanistan at its talks with the G-20 on 23 September.[ii] However, no such stipulation is seen in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) declaration released at the Tajik capital Dushanbe on 17 September, though the document mentions explicitly the need for an “inclusive” government that includes the left-out minorities. India’s presence at the meet may have prevented the inclusion of a funds-release clause.

II. But even if the US unfreezes the $9.25 billion Afghan assets under its control, and allows the IMF and the World Bank to make available other funds and assets to the funds-starved Taliban’s Kabul, a major problem will still linger. This is the question of ‘inclusive’ government, which the Taliban had promised among other things in its February 2020 agreement with the USA at Doha. The composition of the current Taliban government shows the mighty influence of the hardliners within the Taliban, elements like the Haqqani network and the secretive hardcore Kandahar Shura—as opposed to the seemingly more moderate Pakistan-based Quetta Shura. The Prime Minister of Taliban 2.0, Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, is on a UN-designated blacklist; its Interior Minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is on the top of the FBI’s most-wanted list with a multi-million dollars reward hanging over his head.  

Although the Taliban did not officially take a formal position, a member of the new government in Kabul has also defied calls from Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and from other quarters for forming a more ‘inclusive’ government. That would mean more Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and women holding important positions in the government, a phenomenon markedly absent in the current governmental setup dominated by male Pashtuns. The Taliban member shot back that the current government was as much ‘inclusive’ as it was possible to make and that the Taliban did not care for others to dictate to it what kind of government would suit Afghanistan.

If Taliban 2.0 remains essentially as it is today, with the minorities ignored, this would still create unrest and insurgency in the country. A civil war in the not too distant a future cannot be ruled out. This is the reason that even Pakistan, which certainly would not like to see its protégé Taliban’s power diluted, keeps harping on the ‘inclusive’ clause along with Russia and others.

A civil war will not be confined within the boundaries of Afghanistan but will attract intervention by neighbouring states and other more distant stakeholders like the USA.  Tajikistan will continue to back the Tajiks living astride its southern border with Afghanistan. Uzbekistan will do the same with the Afghan Uzbeks. Shia Iran will  stand up for the Shia Hazaras while the Western world will, in general, wish to see ‘human rights’ and especially ‘women’s rights’ given full leeway. The Chinese seemed to have cut a deal. They would extend economic aid to Kabul in exchange for assurances that no terrorism or separatism would go out of Afghan territory.

But Taliban 2.0, despite its smooth assurances at Doha and elsewhere, shows no signs of stretching significantly from its understanding of the Sharia law, which it said it wished to uphold as a framework within which all these rights would be respected. There are reports that the US is in talks with Russia seeking a base on Russian territory or again in Tajikistan for its future ‘over-the-horizon’ operations in Afghanistan, starting with monitoring purposes.

In sum, while option I, outlined above, promises an immediate disaster for South Asia and even beyond, option II holds out  only marginally better prospects. It still has the Damocles’ sword of the probability of a civil war hanging over the head. The ideal solution would be to widen the Taliban 2.0 government to include the deprived minorities with an eye on keeping an effective lid on social instability. But the prospects for such a solution seem far-fetched, given the apparent domination of the hardliners in Taliban 2.0 and the long-standing animosity between the northern non-Pashtun Afghans and the Pashtun Taliban.. Also, the attacks by other extremist groups like the Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K), al Qaeda, and the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) and so on will unlikely cease, even if option II is fully implemented. These extra-Taliban extremist groups will only encourage the radical elements within the Taliban to opt for more aggressive actions, both within and outside Afghanistan’s borders.

The future in and around Afghanistan looks grim indeed.


[i] Incidentally, the Pashtuns living on both sides of the British-drawn Durand Line of 1893  do not recognise it, and that includes the Taliban)

[ii] Reid Standish report, gandhara.org of rfe/rl.org, 27 September 2021, accessed 14 October 2021, 09.07 Indian Standard Time (IST)… All times henceforth are in IST.

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How India utilised the AFSPA to suppress freedom movements?

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The freedom movements in the volatile north-eastern state of India predate the Partition. The Englishman realised importance of the North East as it could provide a corridor to the Japanese in World War II. India applied the Armed forces Special Powers Act first to the north eastern states of Assam and Manipur, a cauldron of unrest. The act was amended in 1972 to extend to all the seven states in the north eastern region of India. The states affected by the draconian law included Assam. Manipur, Tripura, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland, also known as the seven sisters. The forces brutally applied the AFSPA to the states. It ignored outcry by people against has mounting incidents of arbitrary detention, torture, rape and looting. Indian government continued to extend the initial period for imposition of the law ad infinitum sometimes with ex post facto notifications. Its pleas were without AFSPA all the north eastern states will secede from India.  

Gunpoint diplomacy

A large part of the original region that constitutes the seven states of the republic of India had strong political, economic and socio-cultural links with South East Asia. The great Hindu and Muslim empires that reigned over the Indian subcontinent never extended east of the Brahmaputra River. The British colonists were the first to repress freedom movements. . In the early nineteenth century they moved in to check Burmese expansion into today’s Manipur and Assam. The British, with the help of the then Manipur king, Gambhir Singh, crushed the Burmese imperialist dream and the treaty of Yandabo was signed in 1828. Under this treaty Assam became a part of British India and the British continued to influence the political affairs of the region.

The resentment against the Englishman led to the bloody Anglo-Manipuri Conflict of 1891. The British were subdued by the fighting spirit of the local people. So, they preferred not to administer directly but only through the King.

During the Second World War, the Japanese tried to enter the Indian sub continent through this narrow corridor. But back home when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were A-bombed they retreated from the Imphal and Kohima fronts.

A buffer zone

Before leaving India, the British pondered over many proposals for post-Partition of India. The local people were however never consulted. Finally the British divided the region such that some parts went to Pakistan but the lion’s share to India.

Over the years local democratic movements erupted as the people aspired to a new social and political order. One important example is a strong popular democratic movement against feudalism and colonialism in Manipur, led by Hijam Irabot Singh.

The treacherous annexation of Manipur

The post-Partition India reconstituted the kingdom of Manipur as a constitutional monarchy by passing the Manipur Constitution Act 1947. Elections were held under the new constitution. A legislative assembly was formed. In 1949 V.P Menon, a seminar representative of Government of India, invited the king to a meeting on the pretext of discussing the deteriorating law and order situation in the state in Shillong. Upon his arrival, the king was forced to sign under duress. The agreement was never ratified in the Manipur legislative Assembly. Rather, the Assembly was dissolved and Manipur was kept under the charge of a Chief Commissioner. There were strong protests but using violent and brutal repression the Government of India suppressed the democratic movement in Manipur and has continued applying the same methods ever since.

Colonisation of Nagaland

The inhabitants of the Naga Hills, sprawling across Indo-Burmese border, formed Naga National Council (NNC) aspiring for a common homeland and self governance. During 1929, the NNC petitioned the Simon Commission for independence. The Commission was examining the feasibility of future of self governance of India.

The Naga leaders forcefully articulated the demand of self governance once the British pulled out of India. Gandhi publicly announced that Nagas had every right to be independent. Under the Hydari Agreement signed between NNC and British administration, Nagaland was granted protected status for ten years, after which the Nagas would decide whether they should stay in the Indian union or not. However, shortly after the British withdrew, the new Indian rulers colonized Nagaland and claimed it to be Indian Territory.

The Naga National Council proclaimed Nagaland’s independence in retaliation, and the Indian authorities arrested the Naga leaders. The AFSPA was used to violently suppress the democratic aspirations of the people of North East. In 1975, some Naga leaders held talks with the Government of India which resulted in the Shillong Agreement. Democratic forces of Nagaland smelt a rat in this deceptive agreement and rallied the people for national liberation of Nagas. One of the organizations which articulated the democratic demand of Naga people is National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN).

Mizoram

Mizo National front was a phenomenal product of a famine. In the Lushai Hills of Assam in the early sixties a famine broke out. A relief team requested for help from the Government of India. But there was little help. The relief team organised themselves into the Mizo National front (MNF) to liberate themselves from the neo-colonial occupation of India. Against the democratic aspirations of the people Indian army moved in. The rebellion was so strong, that the Indian air force had to bomb the villagers. The armed forces compelled people to leave their homes. This devastated the structure of Mizo society. In 1986, the Mizo Accord was signed between MNF and Government of India. This accord was as deceptive as the Shillong Accord made with the Nagas earlier. To promote dominance by high caste Hindus, India clubbed poor non-feudal ethnic groups with Adivasis, cheating them in the name of scheduled tribes and in the process forcing them to be marginalized and stigmatized by the upper caste ruling elites of India.

Gradually it became the neocolonial hinterland for exploitation by the Indian state, where local industries were made worthless and now the people are entirely dependent on goods and businesses owned predominantly by those from the Indo-Gangetic plains. The new Indian unscrupulous businesses pull the economic strings of this region.

Tripura

In Tripura the indigenous population has been reduced to a mere 25% of the total population of the state because of large scale immigration from the North east and Bangladesh.

A series of repressive laws were passed by the Government of India in order to deal with this rising National liberation aspiration of the people of North east. In 1953 the Assam maintenance of Public Order (Autonomous District) Regulation Act was passed. It was applicable to the then Naga Hills and Tuensang districts. It empowered the Governor to impose collective fines, prohibit public meetings, and detain anybody without a warrant. Indian atrocities from 1980 onwards include: the massacres of civilians at Heirangoi thong (Manipur) in 1984, at RIMS Manipur in 1995, at Malom (Manipur) in 2000; the horror of army torture and violence on civilians during operation Blue bird (Manipur) in 1987 and operation Rhino (Assam) in 1991. Indiscriminate firing on civilians by armed forces personnel when their own vehicle burst in the town of Kohina (Nagaland) in March 1995, the shelling and destruction of the town of Makokchung (Nagaland) in 1994, the enforced disappearances of Loken and Lokendro (Manipur) in 1996, and the rape of Miss N Sanjita (who subsequently committed suicide) (Manipur) in 2003.

Concluding remark

After the Partition, India emerged as the new-colonial power. The North East still yeans for freedom.

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The myth of “shared values”

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PM Narendra Modi and US Vice-President Kamala Harris during a press statement. (Photo: Twitter/@MEAIndia)

The Indian prime minister’s visit to the USA underlines a paradigm shift in the United States’ policy: a shift from Europe to Asia. The shift is dictated by India’s constant pressure on the US to do its part of the quid pro quo for India’s joining the Quad, a conglomerate to corner China. Like the USA, India also is embarrassed at the fall of Kabul. India wants that the Taliban would shut their eyes to the reign of terror in the occupied Kashmir. In its disappointment, the USA, like a rueful baby, is doing everything on India’s bidding to further isolate Pakistan.

Still the portents are that not everything is hunky-dory with Indo-US relations. The US wants India to cancel its deal to purchase the S-400 air defence system from Russia. The US has given India a muffled message that unless the deal is cancelled India may face sanctions. India is hopeful of getting a waiver.After all, India became a member of the nuclear club without signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty. India has been a recipient of the US favours in the past also.  In July 2003 India turned down the US request to provide 17,000 troops to shore up America’s war in Iraq. Then, India under prime minister Manmohan Singh also refused to support any US attempts to isolate or topple the Iran government. Manmohan wished Russian diplomacy on Iran’s nuclear programme would succeed.The US companies have invested $ 200 billion in China. Yet, she is perceived as the number one competitor to the US. The reason is that China may surpass the US in terms of Gross Domestic Product growth in the near future.

US ennui
To Modi’s chagrin, the US president Joe Biden and vice-president Kamala Harris underscored the importance of democratic values in their meetings. Biden quoted Mahatma Gandhi’s message of tolerance to allude to prevailing intolerance of BJP’s government, an avatar of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Harris stressed the need for democratic countries to “defend democratic principles and institutions. Her remarks amounted to a diplomatic nudge to the Indian leadership amid concerns about “democratic backsliding” in India (Freedom house and the Economist downgraded India).
Before Biden and Modi joined their delegations for bilateral talks, the US President had made opening remarks: “Our partnership is more than just what we do. It’s about who we are…. It’s rooted in our shared responsibility to uphold democratic values, our joint commitment to diversity, and it’s about family ties, including four million Indian Americans who make the United States stronger every single day.”
Harris said at a joint media appearance with Modi before their first in-person meeting at the White House: “As democracies around the world are under threat, it is imperative that we defend democratic principles and institutions within our respective countries and around the world, and that we maintain what we must do to strengthen democracies at home.
She had earlier openly differed on Twitter with Jaishanker when he refused to attend a meeting with the House foreign affairs committee because the US legislators had rejected his request to exclude Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who had been critical of the Modi government’s Kashmir policy.
“It’s wrong for any foreign government to tell Congress what members are allowed in meetings on Capitol Hill,” Harris had tweeted in December 2019.
Shared values
As for “tolerance”, the US invasions of Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan leave no doubt about how much the US believes in what it professes.

India’s democratic “tolerance”

Since British raj days, India’s north east had been a simmering cauldron of freedom movements. British colonists held sway over the North East at gun point. In footsteps of the British colonists India suppressed freedom movements in the volatile North East through a slew of draconian laws. The most atrocious law applied to the region was the Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1958. It was later extended to the disputed Jammu and Kashmir state also.

The AFSPA violates the fundamental constitutional rights of right to life, liberty, freedom of speech and expression, peaceful assembly, free movement, practice of any profession, and protection against arbitrary arrest and freedom of religion, as enshrined in Articles 21, 14, 19, 22 and 25 of the Indian Constitution.   AFSPA has been used in these regions to inflict thousands of deaths, custodial deaths and rape, torture, encirclement of the civilian population, combing operations, looting of private citizen’s property etc. Thousands of youth have simply disappeared.

Onus of proof on the accused

The AFSPA holds an accused guilty until proven innocent. This law violates legal maxim Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat (“innocent until proven guilty”).

A quasi-emergency

A governor of an Indian state could through a notification declare a state to be “disturbed” without consulting the state legislature. The law gives armed forces immunity from any accountability. The law is not “in aid of civil authority” but “in place of civil authority”.

Powers of officers

Section 4 gives the following special powers to any commissioned officer, warrant officer or non commissioned officer of the armed forces in a disturbed area: (a) If in his opinion, it is necessary for maintenance for public order to fire even to the extent of causing death or otherwise use force against a person who is acting in contravention of an order prohibiting the assembly of five or more persons or the carrying of weapons or of things capable of being used as weapon. (b) If in his opinion, it is necessary to destroy any arms dump or fortified position, any shelter from which armed attacks are made or are likely to be made, and any structure used as training camp for armed volunteers or as a hideout for armed volunteers or as a hideout for armed gangs or absconders. (c) Arrest without warrant any person who has committed a cognizable offence and to use whatever force is necessary to affect the arrest. (d) To enter and search without warrant any premises to make an arrest or to recover any person wrongfully confined or to recover any arms, ammunition, explosive substance or suspected stolen property.

Section 2 (c) of the Act also clearly shows the close affinity between AFSPA and those laws governing the military such as the Army Act (1950). It reads, ‘All other words and expressions used herein but not defined in the Air Force Act 1950, or the Army Act 1950, shall have the meaning respectively assigned to them in those Acts’.

A war against own people

The act applies toacts that are ‘likely to be made’ or ‘about to be committed’. This presumption is characteristic of war zones. In a war situation, any officer whether he is a commissioned, junior commissioned or non-commissioned officer-leading his men in the field is the judge as well as part of the body that executes his judgments.

The AFSPA grants armed forces personnel the power to shoot to arrest, search, seize and even shoot to kill. Thus it violates the Right to Life enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of India which guarantees the right to life to all people. The AFSPA also violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). India signed the ICCPR in 1978, taking on the responsibility of securing the rights guaranteed by the Covenant to all its citizens. In particular, the Act is in contravention of Article 6 of the ICCPR guaranteeing the right to life.

Concluding remark

India is often called “the world’s largest democracy” by the West. Western notion of democracy (Westminster model) is that it is government of the people (masses, not classes), for the people and by the people.  In truth, Indian democracy is in name only, not in substance. The “shared values” are a ruse.  

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