The View from India | Global gaze, uproar at home

Understand international affairs from the Indian perspective with View from India

Updated - February 22, 2023 11:37 am IST

Published - February 20, 2023 12:35 pm IST

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The recent gaze on India, especially over the influential Adani Group’s businesses world over, and the Income Tax department’s two-day survey at the BBC’s offices in New Delhi and Mumbai, has yet again led to some compelling questions over the government’s tolerance for criticism, and more broadly, the space for freedom of expression in India.

Following U.S.-based short seller Hindenburg Research’s report flagging the Adani Group’s financial “irregularities”, billionaire philanthropist George Soros remarked that the development may weaken Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “stranglehold” on the government. Further, the Hungarian-American investor placed the onus on Mr. Modi, observing he would “have to answer questions”, and that the developments could pave way for a “revival of democracy in India”. The Indian establishment, including prominent ministers, was quick to react to his provocative remarks. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said Mr. Soros is “old, rich, opinionated, and dangerous and invests resources in shaping narratives.”

It was in line with the Indian government’s view that international actors were deliberately pursuing an “anti-India” line, to taint the growing economy’s global standing. Something that government interlocutors repeatedly claimed, while justifying the blocking of the BBC’s two-part documentary on the Indian Prime Minister. At a time when India was already being closely watched, the “IT survey” at the BBC’s offices only drew more bad press. The Hindu took a strong view in its editorial on the development and argued: “In trying to block access to the documentary, the government came across as ham-fisted and now, with this survey at the BBC offices, it comes across as intimidating. This does not augur well for India’s global image, but worse, it is a clear threat to existing freedoms of the country’s citizens.”

What does this tell us about India’s global standing? What do the tone and tenor of the government’s responses indicate? Is Indian diplomacy on the defensive? – our Diplomatic Affairs Editor Suhasini Haidar dissects the recent developments. Watch her latest episode of Worldview here.

Big power, big defense

Meanwhile, the strategic aspirations of global powers continue to dominate world headlines. Tata’s Air India has announced a 470-aircraft order with Airbus and Boeing, including 260 widebody planes, the largest order ever from any Indian airline and among the largest globally. Jagriti Chandra reports on the mega commercial plane deal that the United States termed an opportunity to “deepen an already profoundly intertwined relationship” between India and the US”.

Top diplomats of the U.S. and China have held their first talks following the recent crisis in relations over the shooting down of a Chinese “spy balloon”, with both sides trading accusations over the incident, Ananth Krishnan reports from Beijing.

Top 5

1. Narayan Lakshman profiles Nikki Haley, the Indian origin GOP leader who has thrown her hat in the ring for the US presidential race, and explains why she has a tricky terrain ahead.

2. G. Sampath writes on the shock departure of Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of the semi-autonomous government of Scotland and leader of the pro-independence Scottish National Party.

3. Why has Air India ordered aircraft in bulk: Murali N. Krishnaswamy explains the significance of the recent deal

4. The theology behind the Taliban’s misogyny: The longer an outdated madrasa curriculum exists, the more misogyny will continue to victimise Muslims around the world, writes A. Faizur Rahman.

5. Citing the ‘Adani story’, economist C.P. Chandrasekhar argues that neoliberalism is not about market competition, but about redistributing income and wealth to favoured individuals and business groups.

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