Debunk the False Narrative of Modi's 'Foreign Policy Success'
by Dipankar Bhattacharya

Liberty! Equality! Fraternity! Galvanised by this clarion call of democracy, the people of France had risen in triumphant revolt in 1789 against the hated citadel of monarchical repression. The storming of the Parisian Bastille prison heralded the historic advent of the modern era of democratic republics. One hundred and sixty years later it was this spirit of freedom that became the underpinning of the Constitution of republican India when political power was wrested from the control of British colonialism into Indian hands. In a supreme irony of history, today even as that constitution is being trampled underfoot by the tyrannical Modi regime, the destroyer in chief of Indian democracy figured as the guest of honour in the French celebration of Bastille Day this year. The well-known French newspaper Le Monde termed this irony in its editorial comment a victory of realpolitik.

This realpolitik reflects the strategic convergence of interests of the powers that be in today's France and India. Modi's current visit to France, his fourth since Emmanuel Macron came to power in 2017 and seventh since his own victory in 2014, marked twenty-five years of strategic partnership between France and India. And the deepening of strategic ties means growing defence purchases by India from France. Between 2018 and 2022 France has been India's second largest arms supplier, accounting for 29 percent of India's total arms imports. The Bastille Day parade witnessed joint participation of French and Indian troops along with the controversial Rafale jets acquired by India from France. The state-owned television network France 24 rightly observed "Arms, not democratic values, on parade as Macron hosts India's Modi on Bastille Day".

Even as controversy continues to haunt Modi's 2015 Rafale purchase deal - while the investigation has been hushed up in India following a 'sealed cover' communication between the Modi government and the Supreme Court, irregularities of the deal are still being probed and exposed in France - Modi's current visit saw a fresh purchase announcement by India. In two major deals costing reportedly about $10 billion, India will purchase 26 additional Rafale jets for the Indian Navy as well as three Scorpene class submarines. These big defence contracts serve as the bedrock of India's much-trumpeted strategic partnerships, whether with the US, Israel and now increasingly France. Only the other day we saw the Modi government seal a hugely overpriced Predator drone deal with the US during the PM's state visit to the US in June.

Like his US visit, PM Modi's visit to France has also been marked by strong international indictment of the Modi government's systematic assault on democracy in India. The growing insecurity of religious minorities, especially Muslims and Christians, suppression of dissent and press freedom, the reign of hate and fear and the impunity with which private militias are spreading terror and violence and BJP leaders are getting away with a whole range of crimes are rightly being questioned by global public opinion and well-wishers of Indian democracy. Several public intellectuals and eminent voices of France asked Macron to "encourage Prime Minister Modi to end repression of the civil society, assure media freedom and protect religious liberty". Clearly, Obama's comments on CNN and the question addressed to PM Modi by the WSJ journalist Sabina Siddiqui continued to resonate in France.

In the US several senators had registered their protest by boycotting Modi's address to the joint US Congress. Coinciding with Modi's France visit, the 705-member European Parliament actually discussed and adopted a resolution moved by five factions covering around 80% of lawmakers. The resolution expressed serious concern about the ongoing violence in Manipur which has resulted in large-scale deaths, massive displacement and destruction of houses and places of worship, especially churches, on an alarming scale. The Modi government's stock response to this indictment has been the same as we witnessed in the wake of the BBC video and Obama's comments and US media questions, calling it 'politically motivated interference in India's internal affairs'. Ironically, following the assault on the constitutional rights of Jammu and Kashmir, the same Modi government had hosted a dubious visit by a small group of favourable European MPs even as India's own opposition MPs and political leaders were being prevented from visiting the beleaguered state.

Ahead of the coming Lok Sabha elections, the BJP is trying hard to counter the growing public disillusionment and anger over the Modi government's dismal track record of all-round failure and betrayal by conjuring a false impression of India's growing global stature under Modi's Prime Ministership. The hype over Modi's Australia, US and France visits and the G20 Presidency will all be used to build up this fake narrative. As the world's most populous country with rich natural resources, enormous manpower and an extensive market, India definitely has many advantages and a major role to play in the present international situation. But far from leveraging these advantages to develop India into a stronger democracy and people-centred economy with a powerful voice for global justice, peace and planetary survival, the Modi government is actually pushing India into a state of strategic dependence on the US and its western allies and growing isolation from and antagonism with all its immediate neighbours. Moreover, India's international stature is directly related to the state of India's internal democracy, economic development and social fabric. A government that continues to inflict domestic disasters on all fronts is bound to be a liability in the international arena too.

Narrative of Modi's 'Foreign Policy