PRIME MINISTER NARENDRA MODI’s strong condemnation of the recently-published Global Hunger Index Report is not only timely but eminently commendable. Two elements stand out in a pronounced fashion in his rebuttal: commitment to his India-first mantra and a renewed demonstration of his resolve that India will no longer be bullied unlike in the past.
But beyond the Prime Minister’s reproach, such indices and reports must be broad-based and placed in their historical and geopolitical contexts.
The historical context dates back to the colonial era and the endeavour of Europeans to study India in a comprehensive manner. The outcome of this “study” affixed a near-permanent badge of international disrepute to this great civilisational nation as being peopled with a dark, regressive, unscientific, superstitious and barbaric culture. Thus, colonising it was the only means of civilising and uplifting it.
This biased narrative till date, is at the root of a majority of such “indices,” “reports,” and journalistic reportage emanating from the West. It is thus no coincidence that Prime Minister Modi gave a rousing call to thoroughly decolonise ourselves in his Independence Day address this year.
Which also reminds us of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s famous retort damning Katherine Mayo’s racist book, Mother India, as a “gutter inspector’s report.”
The western media and agencies that regularly produce such spurious indices are still carrying on this gutter inspector’s work which have no basis in Bharatavarsha’s realities much less facts. A pertinent question arises: in the backdrop of this prolonged history, since when has the Western media and its political class ever been friendly to India? The answer: almost never, barring a few honourable exceptions like Will Durant in his A Case for India.
A psycho-colonial and political phenomenon is also at work here. This is the seasoned and habitual viewing of India as a subject country. India’s political independence and sovereign integrity matters little to such a psyche. Thus, the scorn and bias and abuse against India that were routinely heaped by British newspapers like The Guardian and The Times in the colonial period are now being repackaged and regurgitated by such phoney indices, which are deliberately created. This justifiably compels us to make an addition to the renowned adage, “lies, damned lies, statistics and indices.” If the intent is only to find negativity, you will find it, for every street in every country has a dustbin and you can concoct an index to prove how dirty the country is based on such selectivity.
Therefore, it is not accidental that the ascent of India especially after Narendra Modi was elected twice as Prime Minister has been concomitant with a slew of all kinds of indices and reports and surveys that explicitly, desperately try to prove several things together: how India is intolerant, dangerous, sectarian, business-unfriendly, squalid, hungry, authoritarian, unfree and unsafe for foreign journalists. One can find an “index” for each of these parameters, and all of them originate in either America or Europe. These are not indices but flagrant assaults against India itself.
If this is the intensity and frequency of attacks, it shows that PM Modi has clearly rattled a wide spectrum of interests in the West. It also reveals the fact that there are competing ideologies and factions within those countries. Broadly speaking, one faction wants the wealth generated through commercial collaboration with India while the other desperately wants to retain in perpetuity, the Western hegemony over former colonies. It is the latter faction that should concern us as Indians.
ONE OF THE MAIN GEOPOLITICAL REALITIES that followed the territorial and political decolonisation of the world is the fact that several former colonies were indirectly controlled by their erstwhile masters, who used a variety of underhand tactics to retain their hold. One major tactic included exerting constant economic pressure in the form of grants and aids. A variant of this was the invention of the econo-racist term, “third world country,” coined by the French anthropologist, Alfred Sauvy in 1952.
The phrase was specifically applied to the so-called non-aligned and postcolonial countries including India. It quickly became a weapon of war in the postcolonial period. Third-world countries were defined by large-scale poverty, mass hunger, horrible health conditions, poor education, food scarcity, political corruption, open drainages, etc. We need to recall how Hollywood movies like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Octopussy and Slumdog Millionaire depicted India. These were political and not cinematic depictions by any definition.
One of the chief ways in which the term “third world” was used was to keep these countries in a state of continuing poverty so that they could remain permanently dependent on former colonialists. This was economic warfare of the cruellest kind. It was political warfare by proxy. Thus, we had a situation where India, once the global economic leader, was savagely looted by the British, and after it attained political independence, continued to depend on a closed club of former colonialists.
It is this third-world status that made India vulnerable to the other face of this economic warfare: sanctions. We are all familiar how the same, closed Western club imposed economic sanctions when we tested the nuclear bomb in 1998.
However, for such a hegemonic global order to work smoothly, the former colonies had to be headed by dictators or quasi-dictators or weak leaders or weaker coalition governments. From one perspective, this is also the history of the successive Congress and Congress-supported Governments since 1947.
PRIME MINISTER JAWAHARLAL NEHRU and Indira Gandhi’s fatal attachment to the Soviet Union ensured that India became almost wholly dependent on the USSR. In both the domestic and foreign spheres, both these Prime Ministers were scared of incurring Soviet Russia’s displeasure. If this was not enough, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi also hankered for England’s approval. Few people today might remember her 1978 trip to the UK in the immediate aftermath of her post-Emergency defeat. She was given an open platform there to help her resurrect her tattered image and thereby to rehabilitate her political career. The whole event was orchestrated and organised by the entire British political establishment including but not limited to Margaret Thatcher, Michael Foot (deputy PM) and Louis Mountbatten.
In our own time, proof of this remote-controlled hegemony is available in the Ukrainian President, Zelensky who unwisely allowed himself to be used as a pawn by the West and ushered in disaster for his own country.
The same thing had occurred for more than sixty years in India as well. In 1999, the explosive Mitrokhin Archives revealed to our eternal shame that India was the “model of KGB infiltration of a Third World Government.” The USSR Counterintelligence officer Oleg Kalugin noted how it “seemed like the entire country was for sale; the KGB — and the CIA — had deeply penetrated the Indian Government at the highest levels. After a while, neither side entrusted sensitive information to the Indians, realising that their enemy would know all about it the next day.''
It is precisely this infiltration and subterfuge that Prime Minister Modi has decisively halted. Some of his tough measures like cutting off foreign funding for subversive NGOs that had exploded under the patronage of the two-term UPA regime also falls in this category of firming up national security.
Small wonder that he is being relentlessly attacked via spurious indices and manufactured “international” reports. Another favourite theme of these narratives is to disparage PM Modi as a “muscular nationalist PM.” Shorn of sophistry, it can be plainly understood as a narrative preaching pusillanimity.
Neither will these attacks via indices and reports stop any time soon. But several antidotes to curb them exist. As we mentioned earlier, these are in essence, bullying tactics and standing up to them will prove highly effective. A second method is to respond in kind.
California for example, presents an eminent case. Since 2017-18, San Francisco has earned the crown of being the open defecation capital of the world. Homelessness has reached epidemic proportions in Los Angeles. Likewise, a drug-addiction scourge has enveloped most major American cities and law enforcement has all but crumbled. It would be a good approach for India to begin publishing indices on these and similar parameters.
Plus, with India’s newfound clout on the global stage and with PM Modi’s elevation as the head of the G-20, the task will not be terribly difficult. Besides, the Prime Minister has himself set a precedent in the recent past by tightening the screws on Turkey and Malaysia that had attempted to tarnish India’s name internationally.
In the end, the West has realised that it has reached a point of irreversible decline and so it appears that it is playing a double game of sorts: courting India for business on one side and demonising it on the other. It can’t have it both ways.
But the real threat is internal — the Indian suppliers and amplifiers of fake data, which often acts as the raw material for these foreign index-makers. As our millennial history shows, many a crucial war has been lost owing to internal sabotage and treachery.
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