Dividing partisan unity: India's leanings towards the Western Right
Narendra Modi, the incumbent Indian Prime Minister, recently met a ‘private delegation’ of MEPs from the European Parliament, reportedly prepared by an Indian NGO led by businesswoman Madi Sharma. The Indian Government allowed the private delegation to visit the Kashmir Valley, however the visit was vehemently condemned by opposition parties in the Indian Parliament, as well as by certain political dissidents and journalists, especially from the New York Times, Washington Chronicle, The Wire and others. The controversy stirs on the premise that most of the MEPs invited embrace right wing or ultra-right wing ideologies while requests to meet the local Kashmiris from MEPs and politicians of liberal and left ideologies were not granted. The Opposition in India took it as a chance to criticize and counter the Indian Government. In another incident, the Indian Home Minister, Amit Shah, condemned the Indian National Congress over recent meetings some members of their party had with Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the British Labour Party.(1) Shah claimed that this meeting displayed to the Indian people, and the world, a volatile political act against India’s sovereign concerns. Undeniably, these two incidents demonstrate India’s changing approach to interacting with political leaders and organizations overseas.
In the past, India, by culture, has not been apparent enough to lean towards certain left or right political ideologies in terms like we see in Western democracies; stated another way, the respective ideologies of the political left and right have been of less influence among the Indian people. Until the United Progressive Alliance government (2004-2014), the political left and right have been balanced to an extent. However, since 2011, the rise of populism has become inevitable, rash, and demanding among democracies; India has been no exception. Modi’s Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) won the Indian General Elections in 2014 with the support of reformist voters who were motivated by economic anxiety, nationalism, and other relevant factors. During their first term, from 2014 to 2019, Modi and his party members were not expressive of any partisan interest or concerns of other nation-states. However, on August 5 the Indian Parliament authorized the dilution of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution under the aegis of Modi and Shah’s strategy. While Democratic members of the United States Congress (including Representative Ilhan Omar and Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren) condemned the BJP and the Indian Government, many Republicans (including President Donald Trump) did not subscribe to the same view. Furthermore, Trump suggested bilateral cooperation between India and Pakistan, which was not supported by the Democrats.
Similar in Europe: smart move or deliberate mistake?
In Europe, we saw similar trends. While Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour Party members condemned the Indian Government on their approach to Kashmir, Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, showed cautionary concerns over Kashmir and labeled the situation as ‘unsustainable.’(2) The political left has been acerbic on the Modi Government, but the Liberals have been without any certain trends of direct inclination. The noticing fact was in India’s approach of multipolarity advocated and emphasized by Dr. S Jaishankar, India’s Minister for External Affairs. This strategy by Dr Jaishankar allows India to show its own diplomatic edge by inviting overseas elected members from the West (for the first time) in an effort to isolate the political left and other dissidents (especially those who intended to internationalize the Kashmir issue). After their private visit to the Kashmir Valley, one of the 27 MEPs, told India Today, a national news magazine, that the visit was embraced by local communities in the Valley, and suggested that the Indian Opposition should also be invited.(3) However, reality provides two opposing issues:
1. The former issue is that when Pakistan encourages foreign diplomats to visit Pakistan and show off diplomatic strength to India, India has counter-attacked Pakistan’s move. Additionally, on the same day when the MEPs came to India, two more important incidents happened: (a) the US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, visited the Dalai Lama; and (b) US Ambassador to India, Kenneth Juster, visited the State of Arunachal Pradesh(4). Although the purpose of these two events may be to diplomatically shun China, they might demonstrate India’s strong edge towards strengthening its diplomatic representation, showing an unfettered muscular power stance;
2. The latter issue is that since most of the MEPs under the private delegation are unopposed to xenophobic views, it may be a backlash for India in respect to its political imagery as a nation that respects human rights.
However, that is where India’s Shadow Diplomacy strongly matters. We should not ignore that the European Parliament has been quite sensitive to various human right violations across the world, with certain exception like the Uighurs’ treatment in Xinjiang, China. Nevertheless, some of the MEPs have embraced India’s stance on Kashmir and slammed Pakistan altogether.(5)
To conclude on the recent trends on these developments, India is making its own allegiant partners in the global forum. These partners include neutral economic partners like Saudi Arabia and capitalist powers like the US, as well as certain factions of the Global Political Right, from Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party in the UK, the National Rally in France, the Alternative for Germany in Germany, the PiS party in Poland, and other eminent right, centre-right, and far-right political parties. India, however, unlike Jeremy Corbyn (who has been vocal and disunited in partisan terms with respect to Donald Trump), would play a soft partisan approach to maintain the tide of careful differentiation between political inspiration, political leanings and diplomatic support. The tide of multilateral cooperation may be loose, but it is still hard for India to break that.
"Amit Shah Rakes Up Jeremy Corbyn Row At Maharashtra Poll Rally, Slams Congress, NCP For 'Dynasty Politics' - Firstpost". Firstpost, 2019. https://www.firstpost.com/politics/amit-shah-rakes-up-jeremy-corbyn-row-at-maharashtra-poll-rally-slams-congress-ncp-for-dynasty-politics-7485381.html.
"European Parliamentarians Slam Pakistan For Harbouring Militants, Say Terrorists Didn't Land From Moon". The Economic Times, 2019. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/european-parliamentarians-back-india-on-kashmir-slam-pakistan-for-harbouring-terrorists/articleshow/ 71184510.cms?from=mdr.
"Govt Should Also Let Opposition Leaders Of India Visit Kashmir, Says EU MP". India Today, 2019. https://www.indiatoday.in/india/video/govt-should-also-let-opposition-leaders-of-india-visit-kashmir-says-eu-mp-1614011-2019-10-30.
"Situation In Kashmir Unsustainable, Not Good: Angela Merkel To German Media". The Economic Times, 2019. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/situation-in-kashmir-unsustainable-not-good-angela-merkel-to-german-media/videoshow/71862354.cms.