Vol. XLIII No. 15 April 14, 2019

Modi’s Actions Have Sullied India’s Image Abroad

B Arjun

MODI has destroyed India’s reputation abroad and assaulted the rule of law. Much like Trump, he has undermined the value of truth. Modi’s five-year rule has given India a hate-filled society, badly wounded politics, chaotic and angry Kashmir, a small war with Pakistan, a series of major terrorist strikes and a self- engineered economic crash. With all his incompetency, India has barely managed to survive when it should have actually thrived. He has only helped his few super-rich friends to gain more international respect by ensuring that their wealth grows exponentially, while international community’s belief in the maturity of Indian leadership has taken a nose dive. Modi is seen as a “narcissistic authoritarian” who converts every foreign visit into a mega event to promote his brand value. Modi’s personal political desires are in constant friction with the integrity and reputation of India’s institutions.

Undeterred by international criticism, Modi has unabashedly pursued his agenda to divide Indians on religious and political lines. The world-wide criticism of his actions has been used as a means to galvanise his army of supporters that blindly endorse his malevolence against minorities and Machiavellian politics against Leftists and liberals.

The question is how many times more the people will allow Modi to shame India! First, India’s image abroad was sullied when more than 1000 Muslims were butchered in Gujarat in 2002. With Modi at the helm, Gujarat witnessed the worst kind of bloodletting and his government did nothing to nab the violence mongers. The international media projected India as the land of savages inhabited by bigoted barbarians. Writing in the Guardian about the gory images of human bonfire in Ahmedabad, Salman Rushdie, commented “the murder of children is something of an Indian specialty.” Modi’s actions have provided enough fodder to both Pakistan and the West to malign India’s record.

The picture from Gujarat riots that became famous was that of a 28-year old man. Qutubuddin Ansari, at “Sone-ki-Chal” clicked by Reuters photographer Arko Datta.  It showed the young man wearing a blood-stained shirt, his bloodshot eyes “glazed with fear. His hands are folded in an expression of obeisance, hiding a mouth agape.” The picture narrated the complete story of helpless minorities in Modi’s Gujarat. Modi and his supporters were happy to see the picture of a fear filled, helpless Muslim begging for help, but what it showed to the world was how intolerant India was becoming.

Modi, a ferociously ambitious man, emboldened by his success at the hustings, started believing that popularity is equally proportional to polarisation. After becoming the prime minister, he relentlessly pursued the policy of splitting the society as well as the institutions. The slow-split strategy of BJP in the 1990s was replaced by a quick-paced polarisation campaign using the high-speed social media platforms by Modi and his loyalists.

In end May 2014, Modi was sworn in as the 15th prime minister of India, in a grand ceremony at Delhi. And on the eve of his swearing ceremony, Gujarat witnessed clashes between Hindu and Muslim mobs. Almost ten days later, a 24-year old Muslim boy, Mohsin Sadiq Shaikh, an IT professional working in Pune, was killed by members of a radical Hindu outfit. The incident sent clear signals about the basic character of the Modi regime that India was to witness in the next five years. The Modi government did not do anything different. A series of murders and lynching of liberals, dalits and minorities were carried either in the name of protecting India or Hinduism. The government machinery backed the perpetrators who spread communal prejudices and exacerbated sectarian cleavages and even indulged in broadcasting those gruesome events.

Modi and his team sharpened the Hindu- Muslim and liberal-conservative wedges in the society in order to prepare an army of apologists who would fiercely defend and cover up the apparent clash between Modi’s personal ambitions and his loyalty to institutional norms. The cover provided by his benumbed supporters has helped him take one bad decision after another with impunity.

Prime Minister’s decision to demonetise high value currency notes was purely driven by his personal ambition to emerge victorious in UP assembly elections. He remained completely unaware of how his maverick monetary policy undermined institutional norms and derailed the economy, pushing it back by several years. Had some other government done such a fraud on the nation, people probably would have revolted, but Modi managed to keep the public anger under lid, mainly because his blind-supporters aggressively and abusively pounced on all those who questioned the futility of Modi’s decision. Such is the level of ignorance of Modi-followers that even after it has been conclusively proved that demonisation neither curtailed black money nor did it prevent terrorism, they continue to parrot Modi’s logic to demonetise. Every top economist of the world has tried to locate some rationale behind India’s move to play with its currency, but none have found one.

This singular move of Modi government made India a laughing stock around the world. Confidence in India took a real beating after it tried to save the banks by doing something, which is neither the conventional “bail-out” (where the government uses tax-payer’s money to save the banks form crashing) nor was it the new “bail-in” (where the banks use the depositor’s money to remain afloat). It was a bizarre phenomenon, citizens stood in queues to deposit their cash (95 per cent of all consumer transactions in India are in cash) to re-fill bank coffers. After this, Modi subjected the Indian economy to another rude shock by introducing GST regime without building adequate IT infrastructure to efficiently implement the scheme.

Modi’s other strange moves include, flying down to Pakistan unannounced, ostensibly to celebrate Nawaz Sharif’s birthday. He also invited the ISI (Pakistani intelligence agency) officials to investigate terrorist strike in Pathankot Air Force base. Nobody really knows as to what makes him take such foolish decisions. Recently, in the middle of elections, he was in Dubai to launch the foundation stone-laying ceremony for the first Hindu temple in the capital of the UAE.  

After demonetisation, Modi’s worst act has been his decision to  enhance the level of India’s animosity with Pakistan by launching ill-planned air strikes inside their territory and then failing to manage the information chaos which followed the attacks and counter-attack by Pakistani air force. Post the air strikes, Modi and his party made tall claims about India’s victory against Pakistan based terror-outfits and the number of terrorists they killed inside Pakistan. Unfortunately, according to the international investigators, all that India achieved was very little through fighter-strikes. The American media has reported that India did not shoot down any F-16 plane during the recent dog-fight. One doesn’t know the truth, but the fact of the matter is that India’s and Indian Air Force’s reputation has been badly tarnished.

Earlier, the world questioned the manipulation of GDP numbers by the Indian government, now a third-party is openly asking questions about the veracity of facts presented by our military. Modi government has diminished the credibility of Indian voice in the international fora. His incompetence and his manipulative nature is detrimental to India’s national interests.