'Hypocrisy of self-appointed custodians': S Jaishankar rejects reports questioning democracy and freedom in India

Freedom House had accused Modi government of 'driving India toward authoritarianism' with a 'hamfisted lockdown', scapegoating of Muslims, and a crackdown on critics

FP Staff March 15, 2021 11:25:40 IST
'Hypocrisy of self-appointed custodians': S Jaishankar rejects reports questioning democracy and freedom in India

File image of External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. PTI

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar slammed two reports by international organisations which criticised the freedom and democracy in India, calling out the outlets for their “hypocrisy” and for acting like “self-appointed custodians of the world who find it very difficult to stomach that somebody in India is not looking for their approval”.

The minister’s comments come days after US-based human rights watchdog Freedom House downgraded India’s status from ‘free’ to ‘partly free’ and accused the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led central government of “driving India toward authoritarianism”.

In its annual report, Freedom House accused the Modi government of “driving India toward authoritarianism” with a “hamfisted lockdown”, scapegoating of Muslims, and a crackdown on critics. “Under Modi, India appears to have abandoned its potential to serve as a global democratic leader, elevating narrow Hindu nationalist interests at the expense of its founding values of inclusion and equal rights for all,” the report said.

Meanwhile, Sweden-based V-Dem Institute said India is no longer an “electoral democracy” and is now an “electoral autocracy”, adding that a serious decline in democratic freedoms occurred after the BJP’s 2014 Lok Sabha polls victory.

Jaishankar said at the India Today Conclave South 2021 on Saturday, “You used the dichotomy of democracy and autocracy. You want a truthful answer? It is hypocrisy. 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 judgments and make it look as if it is some kind of global exercise.”

The ground reality is very different from accusations on the Indian government of “shrinking civil liberties,” he further said at the event. “Whatever you may say, nobody questions an election in this country. Can you say that in those countries?” Jaishankar said, possibly referring to the US presidential election, where former president Donald Trump had claimed the polls were rigged to favour Democrat rival Joe Biden.

Jaishankar also said India’s “nationalist government” is supplying COVID-19 vaccines to 70 countries and further questioned the contribution of “internationalist countries”. “We are supposed to be the ‘Hindu nationalist party’, right? We are the nationalist guys. We have given vaccines to 70 countries in the world. Tell me, how many vaccines have the internationalist countries given? Which one of these countries have said that while I do (vaccinate) my own people, I will do (inoculate) other people who need it as much as we do. Where are these people?” he added.

The Union minister was referring to India sending 80.75 lakh doses free of charge and 165.24 lakh under the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation.

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