When asked about India losing its allies over CAA, Kashmir and Delhi riots, external affairs minister S. Jaishankar said that “maybe we’re getting to know who our friends really are”. Last week, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei asked India to confront “extremist Hindus” and stop the “massacre” of Muslims. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also criticised the Delhi riots. Protests broke out in Afghanistan, India’s long-time ally, over the riots as well.
ThePrint asks: S Jaishankar’s remark on India’s friends: Sign of new confidence or misplaced arrogance?
No arrogance in Jaishankar’s remark. Khamenei should focus on Iran’s internal problems
Executive council member, VIF, and former foreign secretary
Jaishankar’s remark on Ali Khamenei’s highly offensive tweet can neither be characterised as a sign of new confidence nor misplaced arrogance. The opposite is true: the Iranian leader’s comment reflects misplaced arrogance and hollow self-confidence, given the reality of Iran’s situation today.
Khamenei threatens India with isolation from the Muslim world, but the Iranian leader’s statement is not representative of the views of the Muslim nations. Iran itself has been a cause of division since the 1979 revolution when it pitted the Shias against the Sunnis.
Khamenei needs to worry about Iran’s own international isolation in view of the draconian US sanctions imposed on it.
The security forces of the Iranian regime reportedly killed hundreds of street protesters in December 2019. India has not protested. Khamenei should attend to his own country’s internal problems instead of interfering in India’s.
His tweet’s hashtag “IndianMuslimsInDanger” is disgraceful.
Jaishankar’s reaction has been muted. His laconic remark on India’s friends has no arrogance in it. India has reacted in the past more strongly to affronts by even major powers. A low-key but subtle reaction to Khamenei’s gratuitous insult is not a reflection of any new found self-confidence.
To reject these international criticisms is a myopic view & unbecoming of great nation India is
Former Indian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, UAE & Oman
This is the case of extraordinary arrogance. It suggests that India is now cut off from the global value system relating to human rights, pluralism and accommodation of minorities. India has, in fact, upheld these principles for decades.
Several developing countries coping with the challenge of multiculturalism and economic development have viewed India as a model to be emulated. This is because India has accommodated extraordinary diversity in its democratic political order while simultaneously achieving considerable technological and economic success.
Sadly, today, there is a global perception that India is retreating from these principles. It seems to be shaping a new identity that is narrower, more aggressive and excludes, even demonises, various sections of its minorities — particularly the Muslims. This has evoked considerable criticism not just from some Muslim countries but also from a large number of other diverse sources globally. There is a sense of sorrow and deep anguish in the global media that India is systematically moving away from its own historic principles.
The best friend a nation can have is one which is able to criticise you frankly without you having to view that country as your enemy. This is true in our personal lives as well as in international relations. India’s critics are not enemy nations — these are nations with which we have extremely close ties. India’s relations with Iran and Turkey go back several centuries.
So, to reject these international criticisms and to suggest that these are coming from those who wish us ill, is a very short-sighted view and unbecoming of the great nation that India is.
Jaishankar sent a message to India’s detractors who feel it is their birthright to criticise everything we do
Senior fellow, ORF
S. Jaishankar is far too seasoned a diplomat to either speak loosely or display arrogance. Unfortunately, in this era of soundbites, the text and context in which a statement is made is often pushed to the background, and confidence is mistaken for arrogance.
Foreign Minister Jaishankar was sending a diplomatic message to some of India’s detractors — Iran for one, but also some other countries and people who feel it is their birthright to interfere in India’s matters and criticise everything the country does.
It is rather rich of Iran, which is hardly the poster boy of progressive values, or a dictatorial leader like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan or even Malaysia, which hardly has a stellar record of treating its minorities, to comment on India.
Then there are the so-called (il)liberals in the West who are supercilious enough to think that the world must run as per their wishes. These people were never India’s friends, and if Jaishankar is calling them out, then that’s fine. But the rest of what he said is also important.
India is no longer a ship-to-mouth country, which goes with a begging bowl to the Europeans. It is no longer acceptable, much less palatable, for the Europeans to think they can hector India while having their own detention camps, deportation programmes and discriminatory immigration policies.
As Jaishankar said, India will engage with everyone who is willing to listen to our point of view, but won’t let ill-informed media alter policies that New Delhi makes to protect the country.
India is a powerful country and a sought-after partner. These are assets to be valued, not squandered on one-liners
Professor of International Politics, JNU
Indian diplomacy has always been known for its prickliness. With each passing day, the Modi government is demonstrating that its foreign policy has greater continuity, especially in form, with its predecessors than it would like to accept.
Ticking off foreign governments, especially friendly ones, might get some applause from the Right-wing Hindu gallery, but it does little to convince others that India is growing into its responsibilities. India is now a much more powerful country and a sought-after partner. But these are assets to be valued and used pragmatically to advance Indian interests, not to be squandered on one-liners that do little of either.
India’s recent domestic behaviour is causing concern among India’s friends abroad: their concerns should be considered a warning sign and treated seriously precisely because they are friends and sympathisers. Imposing a litmus test on friends is an infantile approach to international politics.
Dismissiveness is not a signal of India’s power but rather an indicator that its traditional defensiveness continues and has found new reasons for such defensiveness. It is true that this is unlikely to have any significant negative effect given India’s utility in the regional Asian international order. But India shouldn’t seek to be valued because China is even worse, a dubious distinction that provides little room for celebration.
By Unnati Sharma, journalist at ThePrint