When one boards a plane (or at least when we did), the safety announcement said, “In case of low cabin pressure, oxygen masks will automatically dropdown. Secure your mask over your head, before helping others;” or in other words, make sure you yourself are safe, first.
India recently asked the United Nations Human Rights Council to look into Pakistan’s “deplorable human rights records and discriminatory treatment of its ethnic and religious minority groups.”
While it is no secret that Pakistan’s policies have little or no regard for Human Rights, the simple question is, does India, stood where it is today, have the right to point fingers, and particularly to an adversary state?
It is only logical, that if A takes aim at B, A should have ensured that their fortress is either impenetrable or at least is backed up by adequate defence procedures, to fend off a counter-attack, which is only expected, before they take the offensive. A.G Noorani has pointed out this double standard that India has had for quite a while.
India itself fell 17 spots in the Human Freedom Index of 2020, by the Cato Institute. While it was still above its neighbours, the fall was very steep by any standards. It was also that India ranked 142nd in the Freedom of Press Index, continuing its decline that was seen in the years prior as well. The Reporters Sans Frontiers noted that though there were no reported cases of murder of journalists in India in 2019, as against six in 2018, “there have been constant press freedom violations, including police violence against journalists, ambushes by political activists, and reprisals instigated by criminal groups or corrupt local officials.”
India’s vaccine diplomacy may have given it a boost in certain respects, questions and concerns about its situation elsewhere have also grown. This rise in soft power, and the high that is being experienced because of it, suffers from the same issue- a myopic and almost singular focus on development, and that too, economic development.
Other concerns are, the UK flagging many concerns- It made special mention of the “overt Hindu nationalism [which] is weakening the rights of Muslims and other minority groups, leading to a chorus of concern that intolerant majoritarianism is replacing the vision of a secular, democratic India …”, Senator Bob Menendez (N.J), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asked Gen. Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Defense to raise concerns over democratic values on his visit to India and so many more.
That is, however, not all.
It is in India after all, that an 83-year-old man, suffering from Parkinson’s Disease has to wait a month before he is given something as simple as a sipper cup. And, even the most basic tenets of humanity, a decent burial is tossed out the window when a 19 year-old rape victim is cremated without the family’s permission, and people rally in support of the man who raped the girl.
The response of EAM Jaishankar or others to Freedom House, an NGO in the US, downgrading India from a “free” country to a “partly free” country, and according to Sweden-based Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Institute, India turning from being the world’s largest democracy into an “electoral autocracy”, of not “wanting approval” is a weak defence and an attempt to shrug off concerns, without addressing them in the slightest.
Providing vaccines to the world does not change the truth about the state of our democracy, and neither will a simple statement using the ‘soft power defence’ of the vaccine, without providing hard facts to counter what they have said.
As the age-old saying goes, “people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,” but it seems India has not learnt its lesson, and in calling out Pakistan as a hypocrite at the UN, or those “self-appointed custodians of the world” as hypocrites, India herself has become one.