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New Delhi blasts Western media for trying to influence election

Foreign minister S. Jaishankar has questioned criticisms of Indian democracy in the global press amid the ongoing vote 

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar has hit out at Western media for criticizing the country’s system of democracy amid ongoing polling to elect the next government. He addressed the issue while speaking about the “respect” India has gained internationally. 

“I get a lot of these noises from the Western press,” said the top diplomat, who was speaking at an event in Hyderabad, Telangana, on Tuesday. “If [Western media] criticize our democracy, it is not because they lack information,” he asserted. “It is because they also think they are political players in our election.”

The foreign minister’s comments come in the wake of the latest media reports questioning the credibility of the Indian election, given the threats posed by Artificial Intelligence (AI), particularly “deepfakes” as well as concerns over “divisions within the country.”

Many reports have been critical of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for “cracking down” on the opposition, particularly in the wake of the recent arrest of Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi’s chief minister and founder of the opposition Aam Admi Party (AAP) for alleged involvement in a liquor scam.

Bloomberg’s opinion piece by David Fickling on Tuesday went so far as to question why the country is conducting an election in the middle of a heat wave. Referring to the piece, without naming it, Jaishankar pointed out: “I wanted to say, listen: In that heat, my lowest turnout is higher than your highest turnout.” “They will question your election system, your EVM (electronic voting machines), your election commission, even the weather,” he added.

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A strong India challenges ‘supremacy of the West’ – lawmaker

In a recent article, former Rajya Sabha member Swapan Dasgupta described the Western media as “sanitation inspectors” for their relentless attacks on the Indian government.

“The temptation to tell Indian voters what is good for their well-being has never deserted the Western agenda,” he wrote, recalling a letter written by several well-known people in the diaspora to The Guardian, in which they argued that “it would bode ill for India’s future” if Narendra Modi becomes PM. Modi’s party secured a majority both in the 2014 and 2019 elections.

India has been on the radar of not just the media, but US and Europe-based non-profit organisations and even state agencies for alleged “democratic backsliding.”

The US State Department’s annual human rights assessment earlier this week found “significant” abuses in India’s Manipur state last year and attacks on minorities, journalists, and dissenting voices in the rest of the country. “The government took minimal credible steps or action to identify and punish officials who may have committed human rights abuses,” the report claimed. 

The allegations came just days after Modi spoke about the “need for collective responsibility” to deal with the Manipur situation “sensitively” and the “improvement in the situation due to the timely intervention” of the central government

READ MORE: UK weighs in on ‘religious freedom’ and poverty in India ahead of polls 

Last year, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) asked the Biden administration to designate India as a “country of particular concern.” New Delhi has repeatedly slammed the criticism of its policies and comments on what it regards as “internal matters” and has lately resorted to summoning Western diplomats over such comments.

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April 25, 2024 at 06:36PM

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