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How Western Democracies Perceive India and Indian Democracy

How Western Democracies Perceive India and Indian Democracy

Image result for christophe jaffrelot

Written by: Christophe Jaffrelot

 

INTRODUCTION:

  • Other countries’ view of India is influenced by calculations and hopes that it can help counter Chinese expansionism in Asia.

  • While some international media echo indices of democracy and freedom of expression prepared by institutions like

  1. Varieties of Democracy,
  2. Freedom House, and
  3. Reporters without Borders
  • Which are often comparing the evolution of India’s regime to the Emergency.

                                     Image result for Indian and western democracy

REACTION OF GOVERNMENTS AND INTERNATIONAL ORGANISATIONS ON INDIA DURING EMERGENCY (1976):

  • Christophe Jaffrelot in his book, “Emergency, India’s First Dictatorship”, found that the change in regime in India did not change the way Western democracies perceived New Delhi.

GOVERNMENT:

UNITED KINGDOM:

  • Trade: It was one reason why they looked the positive way.

    • India bought Jaguar fighters from the UK, and

    • The two countries set up the Indo-British Economic Committee in 1976.

  • Rudra Chaudhuri shows in “Re-reading the Indian Emergency” that British support for the Indian government, moreover, was bipartisan, from Labour Left to Tory Right, as

  • Michael Foot suggested that it was a “monstrous lie” that Mrs Gandhi “wanted to be a dictator”.

  • UK PM Margaret Thatcher, believed the Emergency served the Indians well in “tackling problems like world recession and inflation”.

  • Foreign & Commonwealth Office concurred: “An authoritarian regime is better equipped than a democracy to force through the reforms which are needed to make India less of a burden on the world.”

    • Following this logic, in 1976, the Overseas Development Ministry increased aid to India by over 30 %

FRANCE:

  • Britain was not the only European country doing business with India during the Emergency. Jacques Chirac, the French prime minister, paid an official visit in 1976, praising the regime.

NETHERLANDS:

  • And in exchange for the purchase of Dutch manufactures, India secured increase in aid — a third more than the “normal commitment” — and a number of debt-relief measures from the Netherlands.

INTERNATIONAL ORGANISATIONS- WORLD BANK

  • International organisations, too, supported Mrs Gandhi’s regime. The World Bank was impressed by her handling of industrial relations, which worked dramatically to the detriment of Indian workers.

  • As a reward, in 1975–76, donor nations lavished the country with Rs 9.39 billion in aid (Highest since 1960s)

REACTION OF PRESS AND CIVIL SOCIETY ON INDIA DURING EMERGENCY (1976):

  • The reaction of governments and international organisations was one thing, of the press and civil society another.

MEDIA:

  • New York Times: In 1976, writing in The New York Times, 80 Americans, including Nobel laureates, historians, political scientists, newspapermen, and popular writers,

    • excoriated Mrs Gandhi for suspending fundamental rights.

  • London Times: Across the Atlantic, the London Times on India’s Independence Day, August 15, carried a six-column petition deploring the Emergency, signed by number of British MPs, academics, and literary personalities.

  • Press as catalyst: The press acted as a catalyst. Ramachandra Guha is of the view that Bernard Levin’s reporting in the London Times in the last quarter of 1976 that helped convince Mrs Gandhi to call off the Emergency.

CIVIL SOCIETY:

  • Socialist International: It decided to send a delegation that included West German chancellor Willy Brandt to see Jayaprakash Narayan — Mrs Gandhi denied it permission.

  • Criticism from Swedish PM: Soon after, criticism poured in from Swedish prime minister and others as well.

  • Slowly but surely, criticism from the press and civil society did make governments rethink the Emergency regime.

US GOVERNMENT QUICK REACTION:

  • US government was quicker than any other in turning against the Emergency regime. In the face of pressure from media freedom watchdogs like the

    • International Press Institute and

    • Trade union federations such as the AFL-CIO.

  • President Ford cancelled a visit to India in August 1975, saying, “It is really very sad that 600 million people have lost what they have had since the mid-nineteen-forties”.

CURRENT ANALYSIS: REACTION OF WESTERN MEDIA, CIVIL SOCIETY AND GOVERNMENT ON INDIA

 

MEDIA:

  • Today, the international media echo indices of democracy and freedom of expression prepared by institutions like
  1. Varieties of Democracy,

  2. Freedom House, and

  3. Reporters without Borders

  • Which are often comparing the evolution of India’s regime to the Emergency.

INTERNATIONAL ORGANISATIONS:

  • This time, however, international organisations are also vocal.

1. UNITED NATIONS REPORTS AND OFFICIALS:

  • 2018 UN special report on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance: it was noted that “the election of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has been linked to incidents of violence against members of

    • Dalit,

    • Muslim,

    • Tribal, and

    • Christian communities.

  • Reports document the use of inflammatory remarks by BJP leaders against minority groups, and the rise of vigilantism targeting Muslims and Dalits”.

  • Concern of UN officials on CAA & NRC: About the fate of human rights activists, journalists, and demonstrators, who have been arrested protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens.

2. UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

  • President Michelle Bachelet declared that the CAA was “fundamentally discriminatory in nature” and invited India to “consider carefully the compatibility of the law with India’s international human rights obligations”.

  • FCRA Act & UAPA: In 2020, she urged the Indian government to “review the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act for its compliance with international human rights standards and

    • To release people charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for simply exercising basic human rights that India is obligated to protect.”

3. EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT:

  • The Indian government has also earned the censure of another important supranational body, the European Parliament. In January 2020, five EU parliamentary groups, representing 559 members out of 751, issued a strongly-worded resolution condemning the CAA.

    • But India successfully ramped up efforts to counter this move calling new legislation as an internal matter.

4. US COMMISSION ON INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM (USIRF):

  • US lawmakers inveighed against the CAA too, after hearing witnesses from Amnesty International and other NGOs.

  • In parallel, the USIRF has continued downgrading India in its yearly reports on account of riots and attacks on minorities.

  • Donald Trump, however, never seemed to consider India’s failure to protect religious freedom a particularly thorny issue in his dealings with New Delhi.

REASONS FOR EMBRACING INDIA BY OTHER DEMOCRACIES:

DONALD TRUMP ON INDIA VISIT:

  • In February 2020 during Delhi riots — commented that India “has always been admired around the Earth as the place where millions upon millions of Hindus and Muslims and Sikhs and Jains, Buddhists, Christians, and Jews worship side by side in harmony”.

  • Trade: The seemingly tepid response of the West may, again, have something to do with trade relations.

  • Rise of China: The rise of China may, indeed, lead democratic governments to look the other way. Once again, the Western response may turn on what the US decides to do. 

  • Geopolitical: But this time around, there are geopolitical concerns too: As part of their Indo-Pacific strategy, NATO countries as well as Japan, Australia and others hope that India can help them counter Chinese expansionism in Asia.

Source: The Indian Express