EAM S Jaishankar puts a weak defence on human rights record; global bodies studies can’t be wished away 

India’s MEA must try to restore our earlier good international image rather than fighting an ugly fight with those, nationally and internationally, who point out wrongdoings of the govt

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar (file photo, PTI)
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar (file photo, PTI)

Gyan Pathak

India’s External Affairs minister S Jaishankar has made a scathing attack on the institutions that have recently downgraded India’s democratic status by describing them ‘hypocrites’. It is, but a very poor defence for the country, and much less the democracy and the human rights that have been in peril, accelerating since 2014 after the present ruling establishment came to power. His conception of defending India in the international arena clearly reduced to merely a rustic wisdom. He defended the ‘nationalists’, the term he himself referred to in his attack, as if he believed that defending them is equivalent to defending India, its people, its democracy, and its human rights.

It is surprising that he did not talk about restoring the image of India to its earlier levels by simply making a diplomatic statement as one of the most respected diplomat of India, such as “India has taken note of the reports”, or “studying the reports”, or simply “the country is committed to democracy and human rights and address the concerns” and so on. He rather chose an avoidable collision course by shouting much louder as the rustics do to defend themselves and to accuse the opponents. Diplomatically speaking, his statement was utterly undiplomatic. It has further undermined India’s image as a matured democracy of the world trying to carve out greater role in making the world peaceful, livable, and sustainable.

What is the best defence when one is accused of doing something wrong? Ask any advocate, he would say refuting the content of the accusation is the best defence. Is accusing the accuser the best defencee? Certainly not, because, it would give an impression that the accused has nothing to say in his defence and is just trying to divert attention from the content of the accusation to the one who has made it. Our External Affairs Minister has done the same by trying to divert attention of the world from the content of the reports to the international organisations who have produced them, not specifically for India, but almost for all the countries of the world. It is indicative of absence of valid reasoning against the contents of the report on the one hand and expression of anger on the other against the human rights and democracy ranking international institutions. Is it not like “the angry cat unable to defend scratches the pole”?

See the language that our External Affairs Minister used while criticising the international institutions, “We have a set of 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 play. So they invent their rules, their parameters, pass their judgements and make it look as if it is some kind of global exercise”.

As a foreign minister he must be knowing that India is part of Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations, right from its conception to implementation. And everyone in the world has right to express concern over any violation of freedom, dignity, and rights of a human being, and calling them ‘self-appointed custodians’ is an attack on their right of “freedom of expression”. His language is in accusing vein and improperly gives an impression that there are a few anti-India self-appointed groups trying to tarnish the image of the country. However, it is not the whole truth. Even several organisations relating to the United Nations have recently raised their concerns over deteriorating democracy and human rights situation in the country.

“It is hycocrisy,” said Jaishankar, of the western human rights and democracy institutions that have downgraded India in “democracy rankings”. The downgrade reflected the frustration of those in the West who have arrogated unto themselves the right to pass verdicts and are feeling frustrated that the current dispensation in India does not crave testimonials from them, he has stated.

Has Jaishankar himself any right of arrogating his own frustration and judgement on to any individual or institution, especially one who have been critical of his government’s undemocratic and autocratic rule? As a foreign minister, hasn’t he taken oath to defend the country, its people, and its constitution? We have reasons to believe that he has not taken the oath to defend the ruling establishment in the name of the country, its people, and its constitution.

The way he defended Modi and his government only because he is also its part, reduces him a “Modi’s Foreign Minister” rather than “India’s Foreign Minister”. He not only referred to the description “nationalist” used for Modi government abroad, but also used a language challenging to the legitimacy of the US presidential polls as well as the tradition of newly-elected presidents beginning their tenure by swearing by the Bible. It is again an utterly uncalled for comment totally irrelevant to the issues of perilous state of democracy and human rights in India, as it has been pointed out in the reports in question. Can this be called the right way to defend India and furthering the interest of the country? A foreign minister must not indiscriminately choose the path to antagonize the whole West and the USA without rhyme and reason, only for few ‘self-appointed custodians’ reports as he himself referred to in his scathing attack.

“We are supposed to be the ‘Hindu nationalist party,’ right? We have given vaccines to 70 countries in the world,” he said in India’s defence for backsliding in democracy and performing badly in protecting human rights. This defense clearly is not related to any of the democratic and human rights violation pointed out in the reports. At best it indicates that India is also doing some good things and the ruling establishment can try to build up its image as good Samaritan globally. However, it cannot whitewash the sin of “driving India toward authoritarianism” which made the Freedom House downgrade India from “free” to “partly free”, V-Dem from “electoral democracy” to “electoral autocracy”, and EIU from “full democracy” to “flawed democracy”.

Every citizen in India is suffering the decline, for which no sane person can be proud of, because it would be a further fall. India’s Minister of External Affairs must try to restore our earlier good international image rather than fighting an ugly fight with those, nationally and internationally, who point out the wrongdoings of the government of which he is part of.

IPA Service

Views expressed are personal

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