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Jaishankar on global democracy downgrade: ‘Custodians can’t stomach we don’t want their approval’

In its annual Freedom in the World report released on March 3, US-based NGO Freedom House downgraded India from the “free” to the “partially free” category.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi |
Updated: March 15, 2021 12:16:28 pm
Afghanistan, Afghanistan india relations, S Jaishankar, india news, indian expressExternal Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. (File)

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

Citing the supply of Covid vaccines to more than 70 countries by India’s “nationalist” government, he asked about the contribution of “internationalist countries” in this regard.

On India-China ties, he indicated that if China extends a hand, then India will do as well — but if it points a gun, then India’s response would be similar.

Jaishankar’s unusually candid remarks came during an interview at the India Today Conclave Saturday.

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On the recent reports of Freedom House and V-Dem Institute criticising India, he said, “You use the dichotomy of democracy and autocracy. You want the truthful answer — it is hypocrisy. Because you 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 it to be played. So they invent their rules, their parameters, they pass their judgments and then make out as though this is some kind of global exercise.”

Referring to the reports, he said: “We are supposed to be the nationalist. So let’s talk nationalism. Okay, we are the nationalist guys, we have given vaccines to 70 countries in the world. So tell me, the internationalist countries, how many vaccines have they given, which one of these countries has said, while I’m doing my people, I will also do people outside who need as much as my people. So suddenly, where are these people when it comes to that. We are supposed to be, you know, shrinking civil rights because of, you know, apparently, our mindset.”

Jaishankar was referring to India’s vaccine diplomacy under which 80.75 lakh doses have already been sent free of charge and 165.24 lakh delivered under the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation — an estimated 339.67 lakh doses have been sent in commercial deals.

In its annual Freedom in the World report released on March 3, US-based NGO Freedom House downgraded India from the “free” to the “partially free” category.

Last week, Sweden-based V-Dem Institute said India is no longer an “electoral democracy” and classified the country as an “electoral autocracy” while contending that much of the decline in democratic freedoms occurred after the BJP’s victory in 2014. The independent research institute, based at the University of Gothenburg, has been publishing data-based worldwide democracy reports since 2017.

Jaishankar also took a dig at former US President Donald Trump and several Republicans for questioning the elections in the US: “Now, again, look at the politics of these places or whatever you might say, I’m in this country, nobody questions our election. Can you say that in those countries?”

Asked about his view on India-China ties, the External Affairs Minister said: “Now, obviously, when a relationship is doing well, we would respond positively. So, if you extend your hand. I’m going to extend my hand too. But if you point a gun at me, I’ll point a gun at you. I mean that’s reasonable, that’s logical.”

Jaishankar described the rise of China as a “phenomenal happening” — the rise of a potential global power after the Second World War.

“Now, we happen to be located directly next to this global power. So, when a global power rises, it will have its repercussions, it will have its ripples and we feel it directly. Now, we have problems, historical problems, boundary issues… So, the possibility of the impact of that on us is, obviously, quite significant,” he said.

“Our message to the Chinese is very clear, look we want good relations. We will be the second and third largest economies in the world, in the very near future. We would be, we are the most populous countries in the world. We are the two Asian civilizations, which are, in a sense, regaining the place in the global order. I need peace and tranquility on the border. I can’t have tension at the border. I can’t have the kind of issues I had in Galwan, and then say, well, you know, let’s carry on with business in the rest of our relationship. That’s unreal,” he said.

India and China have locked in a border standoff in eastern Ladakh for more than 10 months with disengagement having started in one of several friction points.

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