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Pannun plot and the smoking gun

Pannun plot and the smoking gun

The cutting edge of the Russian foreign ministry’s comment lies in its diagnosis of the US motivation in raising dust at a sensitive period in Indian politics when the country is passing through a stormy election cycle.

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Last Updated : 15 May 2024, 05:27 IST
Last Updated : 15 May 2024, 05:27 IST
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The recent comments by the Russian Foreign Ministry regarding the Western allegations of India’s alleged assassination plots in the United States and Canada probably strove to display that Moscow had the back of India’s ruling elite but they constituted a gratuitous intrusion into the country’s privacy. Three elements in the Russian narrative, regrettably, also happen to be tendentious casting aspersions on India’s political economy. 

The Russian foreign ministry cited Washington’s “regular unfounded accusations” against the violation of religious freedoms of India’s citizens as smacking of “the neocolonial mentality, the mentality of the colonial period, the period of the slave trade, imperialism.” This is a contentious point. For, there is a significant body of opinion within India itself — not only among the minority communities — that India’s record on religious freedom has been seriously dented through the past decade, and vigilance is needed to overcome the natural regressive tendency to become complacent. This is one thing. 

In this context, the famous lines in a sermon by the seventeenth-century English poet John Donne come to mind on the connectedness of people — “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” The long and short of it is that people are anything but isolated islands. We are all a part of a larger thing, and if one person dies, no matter their religion, everyone is affected. Besides, in the 21st Century, it is impossible for an emerging power to sequester itself from the prying eyes of the world community. Openness to criticism is the elixir of contemporary life. 

The Americans never harboured a colonial mindset toward India and Indians. On the contrary, as a former colony of the British Empire, the US was instinctively sympathetic to calls for Indian independence. From mid-1941, US President Franklin Roosevelt exerted constant pressure on Prime Minister Winston Churchill to reach a political settlement with India despite being allies with the United Kingdom. Therefore, all this is rather simplistic — India’s ‘national mentality, the historical context of the development of the Indian state and disrespect for India as a state.’ We are a normal country and plural society. Russia should not brand us.

The cutting edge of the Russian foreign ministry’s comment lies in its diagnosis of the US motivation in raising dust at a sensitive period in Indian politics when the country is passing through a stormy election cycle. From Moscow’s perspective, Washington’s ulterior motive is to “unbalance the domestic political situation in India in order to complicate the ongoing general parliamentary elections in the country. Of course, this is part of the interference in India's internal affairs.” 

Succinctly put, that is to say that the Joe Biden administration is apprehensive that the political equilibrium in India’s electoral politics today is precariously balanced, and General Elections 2024 can be a watershed event in the country’s current history. Put differently, the country’s march toward an ultra-nationalist Hindu rashtra and the accompanying all-round institutional collapse that ensues may become irreversible. The underlying assumption here is that the US is a strong votary of liberal Western-style democracy in India. 

It is an old Russian refrain that the US abhors ultra-nationalistic ‘strongman’ politics emerging in countries such as India (or Turkey, Hungary, etc.) The recent Washington Post article, which is the peg on which the Russian foreign ministry hung its remarks, underscored that the current Indian government’s pursuit of “lethal operations in North America… reflects a profound shift in geopolitics. After years of being treated as a second-tier player, India sees itself as a rising force in a new era of global competition, one that even the United States cannot afford to alienate.”

What makes the Washington Post article fascinating is that it is a newspaper with an established history of being the platform of the US intelligence establishment. This particular piece is also so patently personality-oriented. Its timing is significant coinciding with the upcoming transition of the news cycle toward the salacious topic of the next Indian government’s Cabinet appointments. 

Given the transactional relationship that the US policies nurture towards India, Washington’s focus will be on the twin portfolios of external affairs and national security in the newly-elected Indian government, which are crucial to leverage US interests. Suffice it to say, these two appointments could be a game-changer for Washington’s global strategies. We have not heard the last word on where the smoking gun could be leading to.

(M K Bhadrakumar is a former diplomat.)

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author's own. They do not necessarily reflect the views of DH.

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