India is the largest democracy as well as one of the most tolerant in the world. I say this with conviction as I have lived in the US as well as Thailand for many years and visited China and 40 other countries on work, since the 1990s, several times.
What amazes me today is how China can get away with the most mind-blowing human rights abuses and still lecture the world and actually have even Western media giving them a free pass, while India gets hauled up at the UN and world media for human rights abuses. I have realized that money talks and China being a much larger economy can actually buy pages in the Western media and get their narrative told.
In 1998, I was a journalist working for The Earth Times, in New York and my colleagues were from NBC News and New York Times who had retired and joined the Earth Times. Since 1992 when we covered the Earth Summit in Rio, we had all been friends and colleagues racing from one UN Summit to another as the newspaper of record. I thought we were all buddies and countries of origin was no big deal till May 1998.
I walked into the office at 9 am to start my new workday and all my American friends looked at me as if I have suddenly become a pariah. What happened I asked?
They looked at me as If I had deceived their trust and said don’t you know India just tested nukes. It was the Pokhran -II tests that had been done in so much secrecy that even the CIA had no clue. I was quite bewildered by their reaction and the first thing that came to my mind was so what? China has nukes and you didn’t make a fuss about it and India does need nukes for deterrence. Their answer was that now Pakistan would get nukes and South Asia would be the most dangerous place on earth.
My answer to them was if Pakistan got nukes it would be because the USA looked the other way, which was what really happened. I also told them that actually, the only country in the world that had destroyed two cities with atom bombs was America, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
I tell this story because even in 1998, no American President had called out China on what it had done to arm not only North Korea but also Pakistan. I was disappointed and upset when on that very day President Clinton, who I had admired, said that India’s nuclear testing had made South Asia the most dangerous region in the world. It seemed to me then that only the countries that were part of the UN Security Council were allowed to have Weapons of Mass Destruction. The others were outsiders and would be ostracized even if they got it for deterrence.
Later I realised that China was going to be inducted by Clinton into the WTO and it was too great a deal for Wall Street and American companies attracted by profits and greed to even put China on the same page as India. China could not attack America and frankly what happened in our neighbourhood was our problem.
The narrative was the only thing that mattered.
Then China went on to become a 12 trillion-dollar economy and Walmart and Wallstreet were ecstatic their stock markets were soaring, the fund managers were making money. Who cared if for 10 years there were major human rights abuses coming out of China on a regular basis—Like the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners, a Tai Chi/ Buddhist practice which got the attention of the Communist Party of China in 1999. This led to large scale persecution, imprisonment and death and worst of all organ harvesting of live prisoners. This was happening on such a large, that had it happened anywhere else in the world, the country would have had sanctions put on them and all trade stopped.
I know this personally as a neighbour of mine flew to China to get a kidney on demand. There are hundreds of thousands of such cases reported from China regularly but the world media just looked the other way. Then there were horrendous human rights abuse of Uighur Muslims which again got no sanctions from the world community or the UN, even when a million-plus were put in concentration camps.
But when India, as the largest democracy, brings in a law to say all the inhabitants of Jammu and Kashmir, which has been a part of India 5000 years, have the same rights as the rest of India, the world press goes into seizures. When we bring in a law to recognize persecuted asylum seekers from neighbouring countries the UN, Western media and even some States in the US pass judgement.
They would not dare to council China or even Pakistan for its blatant human rights abuses not only on minorities living in their countries like the Hindus, Buddhist and Sikhs and Christians but also Muslims and the genocide that is happening in Baluchistan, Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Gilgit Pakistan. Thousands have been killed and thousands more are in jails but no UN agency or media takes up their cases. In fact, when Imran Khan was asked why he was only concerned about the Muslims in India and not in China on a major television interview, he lied openly to say he knew nothing about the Uighurs in China. This was so ridiculous that it called him out as being a flunky of China.
After all, when you go with a begging bowl to countries and get some loans to pull you through, you can hardly speak against them, but it is embarrassing when the leader of a state lies blatantly to a Western media channel, and yet no Amnesty International or UN Human rights bodies hold him accountable.
Thus, there are deadly narratives at play as I write this. China is bullying countries such as Australia and others that if they go after an inquiry into the Covid-19 they will stop beef imports and put huge tariffs on other exports to China.
Yet the United Nations and Western media is bullying India on as absurd a claim as Islamophobia. I think it is time for India to be ahead of the deadly narrative.
We need to be offensive rather than defensive and call these institutions out for their false propaganda.
Unless we do this, we lose to the worst human rights abusers in the world—China, Pakistan and all the countries allied with them, which I do not even have to mention as I know all the major institutions I have mentioned and Western media already know it.
It is time India called them out. Having worked in the US media as well as with a UN organization, I can say with a great deal of confidence that both will buckle if we lay down the facts. We don’t even have to lie as China and Pakistan do, we merely have to be ahead of the narrative and now is the best time to do it as we have the truth on our side.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.