Militarily, India has two primary rivals – China and Pakistan. Economically, China is, both, friend and enemy. This is because China has learned how to use the dependence of other nations on its products to its strategic advantage. In the area of soft power, the major rival is the post-colonial eco-system that has not been able to get over its loss of influence over India. As India maneuvers to acquire its due share, globally, its ‘non-alignment’ puts off the ‘great’ powers, as has been seen in the context of the Ukraine-Russia conflict.
It is difficult to understand why the ‘Western’ powers are unable to reconcile with India’s growing clout, despite its being a democracy and widespread use of the English language. Greater economic cooperation, even in the short term, would give much higher returns than any political advantage obtained through coercive means. So, why are efforts being made to damage the country’s image, especially that of the present ruling dispensation? For want of other clout, all kinds of cooked-up propaganda is directed against India – alleging it has gone down in rankings on human rights, press freedom, secularism, education quality et al, or has fudged the real figures on Covid deaths. Those that tout these findings as genuine within India are mostly those with narrow, even anti-national agendas. Why do Western media and other influential agencies play into their hands?
The fact is that many nations, particularly the United States, are themselves under great pressure domestically because of political polarisation. Governments realise the harm that is being done to global democracy but can’t do much as those driving the agenda are powerful and focused. It is essentially an extension of these countries’ internal politics.
India is able to counter this campaign when these issues are brought up on legitimate international forums – EAM S Jaishankar’s crushing responses are a case in point – but much of the damage is being done at the social media and perception levels. It does not help that certain sections of Indian society continue to hold everything ‘western’ in undiscerning high esteem. The willingness, even, of some opposition politicians to lap up every new controversy without as much as a thought makes the situation worse. So, it also an internal battle to correct the narrative. Once again, it is the duty of the citizens to inoculate themselves against such attacks and combat this new form of invasion.