Post the encounter and subsequent clash at Mon, Nagaland, which led to 14 dead, followed by arson and destruction of the Assam Rifles camp by a large mob, leading to one more casualty, an orchestrated campaign to show the army in poor light continues unabated. It includes articles in local dailies as also protests for which even school children are compelled to participate. These are planned and implemented by organizations with the aimof discrediting security forces, which have effectively curbed militant activities in the state. The state government is under pressure from vested interests to demand repeal of AFSPA, while being aware that such an action could push the state back into difficult times.
In Kashmir,the Hurriyat, utilizing hawala funds from Pakistan, sponsored bandhs and violence in the valley, intending to project Kashmir as a military controlled state where atrocities were common. A classic example was large scale violence, orchestrated from across the LOC, fuelled by local vested interests, following the elimination of known terrorist, Burhan Wani.With the drying of hawala funds, violence and bandhs have almost disappeared. Post the abrogation of Article 370 there was a planned campaign to project the country and the ruling dispensation in poor light. In both, Kashmir and the Northeast, a number of fake cases are filed against the army on human rights violations, with the intention of demoralizing the force.
During the farmers agitation and the Citizenship Amendment Act protests, an anti-India campaign was orchestrated not only within the country but also globally aimed at discrediting the nation. Khalistan supporters led the charge. Their actions were backed by the Pak government hoping to internallydestabilize India. Global media influencers including Greta Thunberg and Rihanna commented on the farmer protests, without even being aware on why these protests were launched.
Both thesesubjects were raised by few members of parliament/ senate in the US, UK and Canada aiming to damage the nation’s global reputation. India has been projected as intolerant and acting against select communities.For nations inimical to India, pushing internal turmoil and exploiting any untoward internal incident is beneficial. Pakistan and China have leveraged every opportunity to damage India’s internal fabric and external image.
During the second COVID wave, US media networks, projected India as having failed to curb the pandemic. They ignored the fact that Europe and the US faced far greater cases and casualties, despite lower population densities and numbers. The editorials in these newspapers as also the Time magazine showed India’s funeral pyres, while displaying photographs of placing white flags at the National Mall of Washington in remembrance of US COVID deaths. In many cases, articles criticizing the government were inked by Indian scribes.
An article in the Bloomberg of 29th Dec 2021 titled, ‘How errors, inaction sent a deadly COVID variant around the world,’ blamed India ignoring its origin in China or its mishandling in western nations. It stated, ‘India’s hampered response was characterized by months of inertia from the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and a startling lack of resources.’
Dr Audrey Truschke, a professor at Rutgers University with a speciality to South Asia tweeted on 31st Dec, ‘The Delta variant of COVID-19 slammed India. The images of mass cremation fires are seared in our minds. It is horrifying to think what Omicron might do.’ The western media comments on India, whereas the situation in Europe and the US is beyond control of their governments. Lockdowns are failing, vaccination rates are falling, and cases are rising at an unprecedented scale. Such is the US situation that President Biden has raised his hands in surrender leaving it to the Governors to handle.
The current Indian dispensation has been accused by western press of suppressing social media platforms, denying rightsof protest as also of being anti-minority. The Time magazine published an article terming PM Modi as ‘divider in chief.’ Some networks have termed India as an elected autocracy while others accuse it of eroding democracy.
Within the country, the opposition has sought to exploit every incident for short term political gains, ignoring the impact it could have in the long term on the country and its global standing. For the opposition lowering national image implies hitting back at the government. It is for them a battle for political survival, and they would go to any extent to succeed. There have been attempts to divide the nation and exploit its fault lines not just by external elements but also internal. These have become easier with the advent of social media.
Interestingly, the western press and their governments are not on the same view foil. While the western press laments Indian leadership and policies, their leaders praise India. Heads of nations rush to India to seek collaboration and sign deals, aware of India’s growing economic, diplomatic and military power. For many, getting a share of the Indian market is essential for survival. For any economic or military grouping in Asia or the far east, inclusion of India is essential. India remains the only power to challenge Chinese hegemony. This has irked many media houses on Chinese payroll, both within and outside.
Another reason for an anti-India image is that India has grown rapidly in a short span, while many developed nations are stagnating. An additional factor is that India has amassed more comprehensive national power than most western nations, forcing them to connect with India for their own survival. What hurts western media is that India has become too important a country to be ignored. This is what the PM stated in his address to the UN General Assembly in Sept last year. He mentioned, ‘When India grows, the world grows. When India reforms the world transforms.’ Decisions taken in India impact the globe as it is a market which cannot be ignored, a military and economic power which must be engaged and this hurts many across the globe.
Anti-India tirade will continue as the nation grows. India must develop strategies to counter these accusations and project the truth. Unless it does so, its global image would suffer, and it would impact its economic engagements.
The author is Major General (Retd)