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Jaishankar’s interview mirrors domestic-global nexus to destabilise India

Jaishankar was not wrong to draw attention to the capacity of Soros to deploy resources to achieve ideological objectives

External Affairs Minister Jaishankar’s interview to ANI made some cogent and irrefutable points about the campaign in the western media and NGO circles against Prime Minister Modi. Independently of what Jaishankar said, we have seen how these elements in the West never fail to identify his government as “Hindu right-wing nationalist” which is anti-minority, majoritarian, intolerant, suppresses press freedoms and violates human rights. It is accused of institutional capture and curtailing judicial independence, all of which is seen as backsliding of democracy in India.

Jaishankar placed the BBC commentary on Modi in the context of this campaign that is now eyeing the national elections in 2024. Jaishankar connected, quite rightly, lobbies in India and abroad behind such assaults on the Modi government, with the political agendas initiated not always in India, but also in London and New York.

He has also linked the open assault of George Soros at the Munich Security Conference on Modi to the reality of this campaign. Soros linked Modi’s fate to that of Adani whose stock, he noted, had collapsed. Soros is persuaded that Modi will have to break his silence and be answerable to foreign investors and the Indian parliament, and that all this will help to release his stranglehold on the central government and restore democracy in India. He added most offensively that Modi incites violence against minorities, which, he believes, explains his meteoric political rise. This direct attack by a shady currency manipulator on the Prime Minister of another country, one who has been involved in financing regime change efforts in the name of democracy, is unconscionable. Jaishankar rightly called him old, rich and opinionated, and dangerous too because he has the capacity to mobilise resources to promote his political goals in countries he targets for ideological reasons.

Soros, who has made his billions as a short seller, will naturally applaud the Hinderburg Research report on Adani (it spent two years doing its “research” and travelled to six countries for that, spending a lot of resources on an uncertain bet, which suggests the involvement of powerful interests). Soros has successfully gambled against the British pound, the Thai baht, the Japanese yen, the Malaysian ringgit. He has been declared an enemy of the state in Hungary, his country of origin. He has been convicted of insider trading by a French court. Mahathir of Malaysia called him a menace to his own country and to the world economy. Soros is bitterly anti-Russian and pro-Ukraine, and has lobbied for massive financial aid to Ukraine by the West. Unsurprisingly, in his diatribe against Modi he did not fail to pinpoint that India was buying large quantities of discounted Russian oil.

Jaishankar was not wrong to draw attention to the capacity of Soros to deploy resources to achieve ideological objectives. It is altogether a different matter that India is too large for him to destabilise, its democracy is well entrenched, more people vote in Indian elections than the entire voting electorate of the US and Europe combined, opposition parties hold power in many states, Modi has been elected and re-elected in Gujarat as Chief Minister, and at the national level as Prime Minister with an even larger majority in 2019 than in 2014. Soros is certainly a nuisance as he carries his propaganda against Modi and the state of democracy in India to the Davos Economic Forum and the Munich Security Conference. His well-financed Open Society Foundation finances several organisations that promote his agenda through many activists in the field. Investigating these networks may not be very easy, and even if they are exposed, laws need to exist to ban their activities, and the courts have to cooperate. His Open Society Foundation is part of a larger eco-system that exists in advanced economies whose objective is to shape global governance in line with political and economic ideologies centered on diminishing the role of governments in managing political, social and economic changes in countries at large aimed at preserving the hegemony of western capital with the financial power at its disposal. These objectives of the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderberg Group, the Davos Economic Forum, the Omidyar Group and such like entities are well known.

The atmosphere in India is such that activists linked to foreign interests have Public Interest Litigation specialists backing them, and the courts, including the Supreme Court, are frequently inclined to rule in their favour. The courts look upon themselves as the custodian of rights and liberties of citizens and institutions, and are willing to intrude into the functioning of the executive. The result is that strong preventive action by the government against anti-national lobbies in the pay of foreign organisations is made more difficult than it needs to be.

Some activists have taken objection to Jaishankar referring to Soros as “old”, as if he is slighting old age as such. This is ridiculous when all that he meant was that Soros, like many old people is set in his thinking and has his pet peeves. When someone is called “still young”, meaning that he has yet to learn, gain maturity in thinking, have more experience of life etc, is it an attack on youth as such?

Some critics of the government ask why we feel insecure when an individual like Soros says something. We are called upon to have more confidence in ourselves, in our democracy which is considered strong enough to not worry about Soros like attacks. The question to ask in return is why the oldest and the most powerful democracy in the world like the US felt its democracy was under threat from Russian interference, by its purported manipulation of social media, by even a lone young Russian lady in the US charged with courting the right-wing gun lobby and jailed on that account. Why do established western democracies feel so vulnerable to views from abroad that they are currently preventing their public from having access to Russian media by banning it? Why do they feel insecure? Don’t they have confidence in the strength of their own democratic systems?

On China, Jaishankar addressed opposition criticism on the Modi government’s China policy, rejecting it as unfounded, recalling the accelerated efforts the government has made to build border infrastructure and the steps taken to counter the massing of Chinese troops on the border with equal deployments on our side. He countered criticism about India not doing to China what China does to India, that is, make intrusions across the LAC into Chinese-held territory and present China with changed realities on the ground in our favour, by the common-sense proposition of avoiding picking up a fight with an economically stronger adversary. The meaning of what he said is being distorted. Jaishankar was obviously distinguishing between defensive and offensive actions by India on the LAC, making the point that a wider conflict with China through offensive actions does not serve our economic interests. Of course, being forced into it is a different matter. In view of Rahul Gandhi questioning his understanding of China and foreign policy, Jaishankar spelt out his long professional experience of dealing with China and, tongue in cheek, accepted his willingness to learn from the Congress leader.

Jaishankar’s comments have touched a raw nerve in Congress circles, with some of its spokespersons resorting to shrill abuse and insults, which has now become a stock in trade of some of these individuals when they appear on TV channels. Jaishankar has been accused of becoming a foreign policy troll, of failure as Foreign Minister, and so on. Some of these opposition elements are unhappy that he has stood up to western pressures on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, our failure to condemn Russia (we have abstained again on the latest UNGA resolution on the conflict), oil purchases from Russia etc. and done some plain speaking on western double standards. The opposition should back the government on its stand as it is in the best interests of the country, and not criticise it as it gives space and encouragement to lobbies abroad to use our internal differences to pressure the government to modify its position.

Some in the opposition dismiss the government’s concerns about the unrelenting campaign against India in the western media and NGOs as imagining a “conspiracy theory”. The question to ask is why the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Economist, the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, the Financial Times, the BBC, DW of Germany, Le Monde, Libération, France 24, Freedom House, V-Dem, USCIRF etc persistently portray India negatively on issues of democracy, secularism, minorities, human rights, social issues, and so on. Do all of them make an independent and unconnected assessment of the same flaws in governance in India under the Modi government, which is uniformaly and invariably described as “right wing Hindu nationalist” , or is this orchestrated from behind the scene by foundations, think tanks, owners of media, leftist groups, human rights organisations, ideologically driven politicians, Islamic and Christian groups, specially tasked government departments and intelligence agencies that want to maintain pressure points on India.

Added to these, anti-India coteries abroad that include pro-Pakistan and pro-Khalistan elements are sections of the Indian diaspora in press, academic, artistic and literary circles who are anti-Modi/BJP. The linkages between many of these forces with “liberal”, “secular” and leftist circles in India is evident. What the internal critics in India say and what is said by external critics is mostly interchangeable. Not surprisingly, those attacking Modi and the BJP government in circles abroad are also largely of Indian origin. Why is that such a campaign against India is limited to the US and Europe while the rest of the world has a very different, and indeed, a positive view of India under the Modi government, including broadly in the Islamic world?

If the governments of these countries also woo India politically and economically in their interest does not detract from the existence of a campaign against us, as the private sector, the foundations, the think tanks, the human rights organisations and the media etc have, in a democracy, a space for themselves in shaping the discourse and policies of these countries. Often the very governments that seek good and expanded ties with India use these forces that are negative towards us, as they see them as tools to keep us on the defensive and influence our policies where possible.

It is sad to see how opposition politicians, civil society activists and journalists in India take sides with foreign critics against their own country.

(Kanwal Sibal is India’s former Foreign Secretary and Ambassador to Russia. Views expressed are personal and exclusive to India Narrative)

Also Read: George Soros’ tirade against Adani, PM Modi at Munich can backfire