Post comments by Nupur Sharma and tweeting of the same by Navin Kumar Jindal, both of whom have since been disciplined, global pressure mounted on India. Qatar, Kuwait, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia were among those that criticized India. Some nations also summoned the Indian ambassador or his representative to lodge a protest. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) commented on it. India strongly countered the OIC and Pakistan, while to the others it stated, ‘India accords the highest respect to all religions.’
On Nupur Sharma’s comments, the US State department spokesperson stated, ‘We’ve condemned the offensive comments made by two BJP functionaries, and we were glad to see that the party publicly rejected their statements.’ A fortnight earlier the US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, had mentioned that India was ‘witnessing rising attacks on people and places of worship.’
India responded to Blinken by its spokesperson mentioning that ‘racially and ethnically motivated attacks, hate crimes, and gun violence, on American soil are a source of concern for New Delhi.’ It added that the US should not play on vote bank politics. India has refused to be cowed down by the US into blaming Russia for the Ukraine crisis and stopping procurement of oil from them. Simultaneously, it has displayed an independent streak in foreign policy.
India’s permanent representative to the UN, TS Tirumurti stated, ‘combating religiophobia should not be a selective exercise involving only one or two religions but should apply equally to phobias against non-Abrahamic religions as well.There cannot be double standards on religiophobia.’ He was insisting that the global views cannot be biased, and the world must criticize anti-Sikh, anti-Buddhist and anti-Hindu actions and comments and not just only anti-Islam. This reality is being ignored.
S Jaishankar, the Indian Foreign Minister, has been questioned on India’s energy procurements from Russia. He was forced to respond harshly by mentioning, ‘Somewhere Europe has to grow out of the mindset that Europe’s problems are the world problems and world’s problems are not Europe’s problems.’ This also projected that India would not be swayed by Europe’s pressure. India has the world’s sixth highest economy and the largest growing market. It has an armed force capable of handling its security needs.
While the world applies pressure on India to stop oil procurements from Russia it ignores Europe which continues to purchase Russian oil and gas in far larger quantities or the US which imports mineral fertilizers from Russia. Ultimately the EAM had to state, ‘Today, Europe is buying (Russian) oil, Europe is buying (Russian) gas.People need to understand that if you can be considerate to yourself, surely you can be considerate to others.’
Apart from the recent Nupur Sharma controversy others which resulted in global criticism include the Citizenship amendment act (CAA), Hijab issue and farmers protests. In each case there was support from some global quarters. The CAA faced criticism largely from Islamic countries on claims that it was biased. The UN Human Rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, currently facing global criticism for her pro-China comments on Xinjiang, approached the Indian supreme court on CAA.
Justice for all, an organization based in Chicago, organized protests in the US and Canada in support of the Hijab. It currently runs an anti-India project termed as ‘Save India from Indian fascists.’ It defends it by stating on its website, ‘the same fascists who killed Gandhi now run the government of India.’ It also supports Genocide watch, a Washington DC based organization, which has issued genocide alerts for Muslims in India, none of which are even close to reality.Similar comments are also made by select Indian journalists writing for the Washington Post.
Known global social media influencers including Rihanna, Greta Thunberg, Mia Khalifa and Meera Harris joined Malala in commenting on the farmers agitation.Greta’s mistakenly leaked document indicated that the farmers movement, stage managed by propagators of Khalistan, had political aims including changing the global Indian image from a peaceful state to an authoritarian state.
Justin Trudeau, the Canadian PM, who subsequently imposed a national emergency on the trucker’s agitation, supported the farmers. India never imposed an emergency, never employed force, never arrested protesting farmers nor piled them with fines as Justin Trudeau did, however, US media criticized India while praising Trudeau. The Washington Post published an editorial under the heading, ‘Trudeau’s move to end the truckers protest was risky but correct.’ Had India adopted a similar approach, it would have been termed as undemocratic and authoritarian.
During the peak of COVID, US journals and newspapers projected depressing pictures of Indian funeral pyres and claimed it failed to control the pandemic, despite India having far fewer casualties based on population than most of the world. The same journals displayed photographs of placing flowers at the COVID memorial, when quoting US COVID figures.
On the recent Nupur Sharma controversy, an India Today team employing Open-Source Intelligence detected that most accounts critical of the Indian government originated in Pakistan. Every political leader in Pak, including its official military media cell tweeted on the subject. It was Pakistan which pushed the OIC to criticize and even attempted to drag in the UN.
Almost every controversy within India has been fuelled from outside, all with a singular aim of degrading Indian stature and image as also damaging it economically. No other nation has been under the global scanner as India has. This,while world leaders rush to India to sign economic agreements seeking to be a part of the growing Indian market. Funding anti-India activities within, is the handiwork of private global organizations, with branches in India, unwilling to accept the rise of an Asian giant, which seven and a half decades ago was a British Colony.
Further, these organizations cannot digest a strong government in Delhi, capable of dictating India’s terms to the world. This had never happened before. In such an environment, every decision of Delhi’s will be met with resistance. Some protests may be justified, mostly would be orchestrated. Adding fuel to fire will remain a possibility as long as there are organizations through which funds will be channelized and individuals who support such actions.
The author is Major General (Retd)