South Asia and Beyond

“Academia’s Efforts To Indict India Likely To Spread To Defence Tech Sharing, Investment, Quad, UN”

NEW DELHI : On ‘The Gist‘, Professor Salvatore Babones, Political Sociologist, Associate Professor at the University of Sydney and Author of the ‘Quadrant’ article, ‘Indian Democracy at 75: Who Are the Barbarians at the Gate?’ in conversation with StratNews Global Associate Editor Amitabh P. Revi, during his Delhi visit last week. Professor Babones discusses his ‘Quadrant’ article that sparked off sharp reactions in mainstream and social media during his India visit last week, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) “labeling India a “flawed democracy” characterised by “serious deterioration in the quality of democracy under leader Narendra Modi”, Sweden’s university-based Varieties of Democracy Institute (V-DEM) ranking India at 101st in the world for electoral democracy (two places above Myanmar), claiming that India is no longer a liberal democracy at all, but an “electoral autocracy” on par with Russia and the American government-funded think tank Freedom House considering India to be only “partially free”, with an overall freedom rank of tied-85th in the world”. Professor Babones, who has appeared on StratNews since July 2020, says his analysis “found throughout all three rankings, consistent errors bordering on mendacity, errors that simply can’t be honest errors, but instead intentional errors and an effort not so much to analyse India as to indict India”. He says, he calls them “mendacious because they’re full of the sort of claim that has been intentionally manipulated, maybe by someone reporting from India, in evidence of their poor evaluation” adding, the Western and Indian analysts, intellectuals. academics and journalists, who these institutions rely on for surveys “seem to believe it’s appropriate even to lie if necessary, in order to discredit the Narendra Modi government, because they apparently feel that it is more important to discredit this government than to be honest in their analysis”. Watch Professor Babones arguing that “this small number of voices and Western narratives, which start in academia, on India being a fascist state, obviously potentially stands in the way of things like defence technology sharing, but will end up in investment funds, mutual funds, the Quad and even the United Nations”. Like the BDS movement( promoting boycotts, divestments, and economic sanctions) against Israel, he says, “BDS against India has already started. It’s not called BDS — the name hasn’t been attached to it. But, these efforts to stigmatise India are already there in academia. And they’re likely to spread to the rest of society, like the United Nations”. “This is all coming this decade”, he warns, “it’s all supported by a small group of just highly vocal intellectuals who, because they don’t like the government, are willing to sacrifice India”. To counter this “mendacity, India needs accuracy, Professor Babones argues,”not public relations.” More people doing what he is and an India “government that can provide data that’s easier to access and accuracy instead of issuing the sort of angry blanket denials that we see whenever a ranking comes out that the government doesn’t like”. India is the home of TCS, Wipro, all these incredible firms. Why not hire one of them to do a first class data portal for the Indian government that makes everything easily accessible”. On External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar dismissing the ‘Freedom House’ rankings at an ‘India Today’ conclave, saying, “you use the dichotomy of democracy and autocracy…You want the truthful answer, it is hypocrisy,” Professor Babones says, “Dr Jaishankar has been very effective at representing India abroad to an Indian population. He’s a very successful, very accomplished international international affairs scholar and practitioner. But let’s not forget he is a politician. It’s much more important from the standpoint of a politician to satisfy the Indian public”, adding “I don’t think that Dr.Jaishankar’s muscular defences have got much purchase outside India. They’re not widely reported. They’re not widely shared. You’ll see a perfunctory report in the Western media. But, they haven’t got a lot of traction. They’ve got enormous traction inside India. Not much outside”.

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