Narendra Modi accuses Pakistan of interfering in Gujarat polls: Congress was pioneer of 'foreign hand' theory
The unfounded allegations of a 'foreign hand' meddling in India's internal affairs have been as old as the Indian State itself.
Speaking at a rally in Gujarat's Palanpur on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused Pakistan of interfering in the ongoing Assembly elections. Moreover, Modi also claimed that retired Pakistani military officers are willing to help senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel become the chief minister of the state.
Modi's latest salvo came after a senior BJP leader claimed that suspended Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar, along with former vice-president Hamid Ansari and ex-prime minister Manmohan Singh met with the Pakistan High Commissioner on 6 December.
This is what Modi said in the rally:
"There were media reports yesterday about a meeting at Mani Shankar Aiyar's house. It was attended by Pakistan's high commissioner, Pakistan's former foreign minister, India's former vice-president and former prime minister Manmohan Singh. The meeting at Aiyar's house carried on for almost three hours," Modi said.
Modi claimed that Pakistan Army's former director-general, Sardar Arshad Rafiq, is interfering in Gujarat's election, alleging that he had appealed to make Patel the next Chief Minister of Gujarat.
The Congress was quick to deny any such meeting with the Pakistani officials, calling the allegation "baseless". Nevertheless, unfounded allegations of a "foreign hand" meddling in India's internal affairs have been as old as the Indian State itself.
The most popular proponent of the "foreign hand" theory was the late Indira Gandhi, who often accused western powers for trying to destabilise the country.
As noted by eminent historian Ramchandra Guha, the "foreign hand" theory was the biggest contribution of Indira to India's political discourse.
During the 1970s and 1980s,"foreign hand", most often than not, referred to the US-led western world, as the Soviets were considered to be close to India. That was the Cold War era when the world was sharply divided into the capitalist and socialist camp.
There were numerous occasions when Indira blamed the "invisible hand" for creating trouble in India.
In January 1975, when the then Union minister Lalit Narayan Mishra was killed in a bomb blast at Samastipur railway station, Indira immediately blamed "foreign elements" for the murder.
"Foreign hand" became a frequent theme of the Indira government in the 20 month-long Emergency period.
Just five months into the Emergency, Indira raised the "foreign hand" bogey to discredit the Jayprakash Narayan-led Opposition.
"There are many people outside the country, who are not our well-wishers and who do not like to see India being strong and united and carrying forward its economic programmes," Indira told the nation during a radio broadcast on 11 November 1975.
At a 1976 public rally in Calcutta, when the Emergency was in full swing, Indira Gandhi warned "foreign critics" to stop interfering in India's internal affairs.
“As the prime minister I can say the more they try to suppress us or oppose us, the more strong and united we will be. We don’t care for their criticism, whether it came from the Socialist International or any other organisation," The Indian Express quoted her as saying on 3 March, 1976.
In the rally, she also slammed "foreign powers" for belittling India's achievements like the 1974 Pokhran test and the launch of Aryabhatta satellite.
Indira's fear of a foreign hand sabotaging India continued even under her successor and son Rajiv Gandhi.
India Today reported in 1985 that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had uncovered a Khalistani plot to kill Rajiv in the US. The report added that the prompt action of the FBI helped "snuff out much bally-hooed fear in India that an American 'foreign hand' is out to undermine the integrity and stability of the subcontinent."
Rajiv, who famously said that only 15 paise out of one rupee reaches the needy, was also known for repeatedly claiming an "invisible foreign hand" for disrupting India's economic development.
A November 1984 profile in The Guardian profile stated: "Rajiv is the one who most frequently talks about the ‘foreign hand’ - a reference to the CIA and Pakistan - highlighting its alleged role in domestic affairs, particularly Punjab (sic)."
As the Cold war came to an end, after the Soviet Union's disintegrated in December 1991, the narrative of a "CIA hand" took a backseat. This may have been possible due to India's ties with the US improving in the post-Cold War era.
However, international NGOs like Greenpeace now occupy the position, once held by the CIA. Nevertheless, the US too has made infrequent appearances in conspiracy theories in the 21st Century.
While the Anna Hazare-led Jan Lokpal movement took the nation by storm, the Congress party suspected the United States' involvement in funding the stir.
"The US never supported any movement in India since its independence. For the first time, the US said that Anna Hazare's movement should be allowed and there should be no obstruction to it. What was the need for the US to give this statement?" Rashid Alvi, a senior Congress had said back then.
Moreover, the CBI too made claims of a "foreign hand" maligning soon-to-be Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
In September 2012, the apex investigator told the Supreme Court that three foreign websites were behind the charge that Rahul had abducted a girl.
The most recently reported instance of an alleged "foreign hand" came in 2012, when the then prime minister Manmohan Singh claimed that foreign-funded NGO were behind derailing the Kudankulam nuclear pwoer plant in Tamil Nadu.
"There are NGOs, often funded from the United States and Scandinavian countries, which are not fully appreciative of the development challenges that our country faces," India Today quoted the former prime minister as saying.
What Manmohan claimed in 2012 was taken a step further by the Modi government in 2015, when it cancelled the licenses of around 9,000 foreign funded NGOs.
According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, the decision was taken as the NGOs were “prejudicially affecting the public interest and economic interest of the state.”
Greenpeace India was the major target of the government, which believed that the international NGO was working against the country's economic progress.
The present NDA government is also a topic of discussion among the conspiracy theorists.
After the Congress slumped to its lowest ever tally of 44 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, a senior Congress leader Mohan Prakash claimed that the BJP won a clear majority with the help of Israel's Mossad.
He claimed that the RSS had been working in tandem with Mossad since 2009 to defeat the Congress, adding that the Israeli intelligence agency was unhappy over limited bilateral ties under the UPA regime.
While conspiracy theories have remained on earth as long as the mankind, political scientist Jyotirmaya Sharma's statement highlighted the possible reason behind the phenomena, "The fear of the foreigner is phoney. It is not real. It has been created as a bogey to justify your capitulation to the outsider.”
With inputs from PTI
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