Ahead of 2024 Lok Sabha election, global toolkits burgeon to stain India’s image First Post 26 May 2023 Maj Gen Harsha Kakar



Ahead of 2024 Lok Sabha election, global toolkits burgeon to stain India’s image First Post 26 May 2023

          The trans-Atlantic neoliberal cabal, known as the Bilderberg Group, met in Pestana Palace in Lisbon, Portugal, last week. Attendance for this meet is strictly by invitation and proceedings are secret. Those who attended included Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, Ukraine’s and Spain’s foreign ministers, Deputy PM of Canada, Chrystia Freeland, Prime Ministers of Netherland, Finland and Denmark, the former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, and many other industrialists, media influencers, journalists and thinkers.

In 2022, the agenda for the conference, then held in the US, included Ukraine, Indo-Pacific, China, challenges to NATO and global geopolitical realignments. This year major topics under discussion include, apart from its main subject Artificial Intelligence, NATO and Ukraine, special emphasis on India and China. India and China have stalled the trans-Atlantic project for world domination, countering for which imply developing suitable strategies. No representative from India or China were invited. What developed in the discussion remains a mystery but would definitely be aimed at countering India’s growth and global image.

          In an interview to the Sunday Guardian, Mike Benz, a former senior diplomat with the State Department of the US, highlighted that few biased members of the department waged a campaign against the current Delhi dispensation in the run up to the 2019 elections. The aim was to ‘to paint PM Modi’s political success as being the result of misinformation online.’ A number of fake inputs were created and pushed online intending to reinforce this view.  

Benz added, ‘US foreign policy establishment leaned on Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, very heavily, to limit the amount of WhatsApp messages that could be shared, which would therefore limit the amount of pro-Modi content that could circulate in India. It was this that resulted in Jan 2019 WhatsApp limiting sharing of messages in India.’ While the US government seeks to enhance ties with India, there are many within who desire to force a government change in New Delhi. Benz also added ‘Trump (who sought to improve ties with India) had very little influence over the rank-and-file of the State Department.’ 

          In an article titled, ‘America’s bad bet on India,’ published by the US Foreign Affairs magazine, on 01 May this year, Ashley Tellis, currently the Tata Chair for Strategic Affairs and a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, argues that the ‘US courting India as a partner is a bad bet because New Delhi will not follow Washington’s lead in confronting China.’ He adds, ‘India values cooperation with Washington for the tangible benefits it brings but does not believe that it must, in turn, materially support the United States in any crisis – even one involving a common threat such as China.’ Tellis had earlier served with the US State Department as an advisor.

The council for foreign affairs, which publishes the magazine has considerable influence in the US foreign policy establishment as its members regularly are appointed advisors in the state department. Evidently there is an attempt to project the belief that India is an unreliable ally which will exploit its strategic autonomy to avoid supporting the US. This flows from India’s approach to the Ukraine crisis.

          The US Commission on International Religious Freedom recently released its report asking for India to be designated as ‘country of particular concern,’ ‘impose targeted sanctions on Indian government agencies and officials responsible for violations,’ and ‘raise religious freedom issues in US-India bilateral relationship.’ There has been no official comment from the US government. The timing of the report, preceding the PM’s visit to Washington, is a sign of discontent within US agencies.

Almost every global index, including democracy, human rights, hunger, press freedom, to name a few, place India in a regressive state. India was marked below Afghanistan and Pakistan in the press freedom index. There are no journalists in Afghanistan while press members vanish in Pak or are killed, even if they seek asylum abroad, a fact globally known, yet these nations are supposed to have greater press freedom than India.

India was ranked way below Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the hunger index. Apart from Pakistan, India has provided these very nations with food stocks. Further India is the only country which continues to provide food grains to large parts of its population. A government press release termed the report as ‘consistent effort to taint India’s image.’

Aging billionaire investor George Soros, an established Modi critic, is another example of a group of influencers who cannot accept a growing and powerful India. He has termed India as a democracy but the ‘PM is no democrat.’ His ‘Open Society Foundation’ has funded various organizations in India on conditions that they peddle anti-nationalist narratives. The foundation has been under government watchlist since 2016, but Soros continues his anti-India narratives.  

The UN Special Rapporteur (SR) on Minority Issues, Fernand de Varennes, raised concerns over the holding of the G20 meeting in Srinagar, just days before it was scheduled. He tweeted, ‘By holding a G20 meeting of the working group on tourism on 22-24 May in Srinagar, the Government of India is seeking to normalise what some have described as a military occupation.’ Not only was his statement unwarranted but it also had no backing of truth. It was discarded by the government stating that Fernand ‘has acted irresponsibly to politicize this issue, misused his position as SR to publicize on social media his presumptive and prejudiced conclusions in a gross violation of the Code of Conduct for SRs.’ 

A major reason for intending to project India in poor light is its growing strategic autonomy and refusal to be swayed by western pressures and views, an aspect possibly discussed in depth in the Bilderberg group meeting. For India, the Ukraine war is largely a European problem, not Indian. Hence, India refuses to abide by western sanctions. Added is India’s growing economic might overshadowing many European nations forcing them to seek economic coupling with India. Simultaneously, any western military interest in the Indo-Pacific is unlikely to succeed unless India is incorporated.   

Another cause for discomfort is the global rating of Prime Minister Modi. With an approval rating of 76% PM Modi is the world’s most popular leader. Biden stated to Modi in a conversation in Hiroshima, ‘You are causing me a real problem. Next month we have a dinner for you in Washington. Everyone in the whole country wants to come. I have run out of tickets. You think I am kidding. Ask my team. I am getting phone calls from people I have never heard of before. Everyone from movie actors to relatives.’ Hence, in multiple scenarios, PM Modi is individually targeted.

Australian PM, Anthony Albanese added, that there is a capacity of 20,000 for the Community reception in Sydney but he is still not able to accommodate requests he is getting. The Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC) Summit scheduled to be held in Papua New Guinea will have participation from leaders of 14 countries. Rarely do these leaders come together due to connectivity and other issues. PM Modi’s reception on arrival in Papua New Guinea has never been accorded to any dignitary before. No matter what global agencies attempt to do, they cannot change reality. Indian leadership has made its global impact and is sought.

With the nation moving towards 2024, the venom and desperation to change the Delhi dispensation will only increase. However, those collaborating against India fail to realize that the Indian population is educated, aware of what it wants and knows its democratic powers. Hence, will not be influenced by low level western propaganda. All anti-India groups will be able to do is push a negative image of India in some parts of the globe.

However, western governments need India despite whatever their opinion is. Without sharing in India’s growing economy, they will stagnate. Without joining hands with Indian military power, the Indo-Pacific cannot be made into an open ocean. The world needs India and hence it will have to accept Indian terms.