Leaders of democratic nations, including India, have repeatedly averred that democracy is a shared value.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi never misses a chance to claim that India is the mother of all democracies; he even goes to the extent of saying that there is evidence proclaiming the existence of ancient republican states. He also keeps repeating that India is the fifth largest economy and the fastest growing among important ones and believes that the whole world looks at Indians in an hour of crisis. In short, the Prime Minister is seeking to portray the picture of a confident, powerful and emerging India.
Some of his colleagues in the council of ministers and the party, however, appear not to share his self-confidence. Instead, they analyse each and every remark any foreign nation makes about India while seeing these as a roundabout way to interfere in the internal affairs of the country. They are even of the opinion that they are intended to insult India and Indians.
The latest is an innocuous one coming from the spokesperson of the German foreign ministry who said her nation has “taken note” of developments related to the conviction and sentencing of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and his subsequent disqualification as a member of the Lok Sabha; the spokesperson also expressed the confidence that judicial independence and fundamental democratic principles will apply in the case. And last week, it had been the turn of the United States to make a similar comment.
Anyone who follows diplomatic language would understand use of facetious words, but the reaction of the government reflects paranoia of a certain depth. The law minister even said India will “no more tolerate foreign influence”.
Leaders of democratic nations, including India, have repeatedly averred that democracy is a shared value, and that strengthening it in one nation goes to strengthen it in every country; as a corollary, signs of its weakening in one would be taken note of by all others. In point of fact, Mr Modi had himself expressed anxiousness when trouble-makers overran Capitol Hill in January 2021, and posed a threat, however weak, to the rule of law in the world’s oldest democracy. Thus, even if spoken meaningly, such words should be taken as an expression of shared concern and not in an adversarial spirit. Mutual assurance, and not suspicion, is the key. India has travelled long enough on the path of democracy so that it can be a confident player, instead of being a reactionary party, recoiling at every insignificant reference.
That said, the Congress, which is the principal Opposition party in the country, is unmistakably acting as if the West, with all its past sins and blessings, will be the knight in shining armour and come riding in whenever Indian democracy is in distress. Mr Gandhi was “surprised” that the United States and the European countries “seem to be oblivious that a huge chunk of (Indian) democratic model has come undone”. The party’s senior leader Digvijaya Singh was a relieved man that Germany has taken note of the “persecution” of Mr Gandhi. It is really sad that leaders of the Congress, which played a crucial role in Indian Independence, now look up to the same forces that once colonised us. And in the process, weaken India’s democratic forces.