India has now become the sick man of South Asia

India has never looked so vulnerable and edgy in its own neighbourhood as it looks now.
Published 26 Oct, 2020 11:00am

Be it India's economy, its handling of the Coronavirus pandemic, its socio-political landscape, its foreign policy, its handling of security and its democratic institutions and instincts — all are in a varying degree of crisis today, endangering the nation’s rise as a credible and stable global player.

Indian economy is passing through a historic low being witnessed for the first time since its independence in 1947. With the economy witnessing a negative growth of more than 10 per cent, the rising economic power of South Asia looks a pale shadow of its former self.

The handling of the pandemic betrays a complete lack of imagination and planning and as a result despite imposing the strictest and longest lockdown in the world, New Delhi has failed to achieve desired results. No country in the world has failed as miserably as India in providing adequate safety nets to its vast population. As a result, millions of lives are at stake and very soon India will end up having the largest number of coronavirus cases in the world.

Separately, security situation at the Himalayan border is in a very precarious state, something the country is witnessing after four decades. More than five months have passed since the Ladakh region became tense, dealing a heavy blow to the trust New Delhi had built with China in the last three decades and putting extra burden on the country’s economy. The imbroglio also brings into sharp focus the wisdom of established strategic thinking.

As a result, today, South Asia’s biggest nation stands isolated in the region. New Delhi’s divisive domestic politics and its erroneous geo-political thinking has put India at a discount in most neighbouring capitals. India has never looked so vulnerable and edgy in its own neighbourhood as it looks now.

The domestic situation is also not very encouraging. Social and religious fissures are at an all time high, majoritarian politics has further alienated Kashmir, and India’s minority and liberal sections feel persecuted. Democracy is under siege in the country with an open attack on the press, against dissenting voices and the political opposition. Today we are witnessing an atmosphere where diversity is openly discounted and secularism is seen as an abuse.

Television debates and media discourse however blanks out these multiple crises confronting India. On the contrary, a vocal section of the media is doing everything in its power to distract the public from the issues at hand and protect the image of the regime which has brought India to such a pass.

For example, for the last few months, the media has been debating the suicide of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput. A section of the media known for its ideological and political proximity with the ruling establishment invented a conspiracy in the death of the actor, following which news media became a reality TV hub and with every passing day a new theory of death and a new villain was planted in the public imagination. This was done not to find responsibility or investigate in order to get to the truth of the matter but to digress and distract the public. The drama subsided only when Rajput’s partner Rhea Chakraborty, a victim of false and motivated propaganda, was arrested.

The question is: was the hysteria created by the media driven by elusive television rating or was there more to the madness?

A cooler analysis tells you that a majoritarian agenda is at play and the ruling establishment is not losing sleep over India’s growing downward graph; it is however working over time with a pliant media to dismantle the secular and plural DNA of the nation.

Rajput’s death also became a means to attack Bollywood, which is by far the strongest proponent of diversity. There is a discernible attempt to coax the film world to fall in line with the majoritarian thinking of the governing party. The very fact that the government encourages rabid communal artists like Kangana Ranaut to become the voice of Bollywood further exposes the larger political and cultural intent of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government.

This intent is all the more visible the way the government is dealing with dissent. The arrest and detention of critics and political opponents and a shrinking space for democratic resistance further reveals that the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not fully focused on dealing with the pandemic, nor is it interested in reviving the economic fortune of the country. On the contrary, Modi is using the pandemic as an excuse to further his political agenda.

The situation has come to such a pass that secularism and diversity have openly come to be attacked. Popular jewellery brand Tanishq was forced to withdraw an ad portraying an interfaith marriage. The social media backlash against the ad was so vehement that the brand not only withdrew the 45 seconds long short film but also apologised. When have we seen such animosity in India towards its own civilisation and heritage of diversity? Following this, Home Minister Amit Shah asked the public not to 'over react'. These events illustrate that the echo system created by the BJP has made such an open attack on diversity a normal affair.

At the same time, the government is going full throttle in shutting down democratic dissent by creating difficulties for independent NGOs and getting in the way of their smooth functioning. Very recently, Amnesty International was forced to suspend its operations in India after its bank accounts were frozen in a government “witch-hunt”.

Additionally, things have become so dire that global journalist bodies — the Austria-headquartered International Press Institute (IPI) and Belgium-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) — have urged Prime Minister Modi to take urgent action against the rising use of draconian sedition laws and other legal sanctions to threaten and silence journalists in India.

Commenting on the current state of affairs, senior Indian journalist Harish Khare recently wrote that Indian politics is sliding into “a stereotypical authoritarian ‘Third World’ country of the mid-1970s” and given what the country is becoming, its current stewardship should perhaps stop pretending that the country should be an aspiring world leader.

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Sanjay Kumar is a New Delhi based journalist covering South Asia. A keen observer of politics in India and the subcontinent, Kumar in his 15 years of journalistic career has worked with both national and international media. A news reporter, columnist, commentator, producer and blogger, Kumar does not confine himself to one particular genre in journalism.


The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (72) Closed

Zoro
Oct 26, 2020 11:10am
Mr Kumar, Very straight and honest opinion! but you are living in polarised India. Please stay safe in Modi's India.
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Polaris
Oct 26, 2020 11:11am
India has now become the sick man of South Asia, due to the growing downward graph.
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bryan joseph
Oct 26, 2020 11:14am
I just attended a webinar with leading economists of India's large businesses and participants from both private and public sector attended. None of them doubted a recovery. Yesterday was Dushera, the number of 2&4Wheeler sold were higher than that of last Dushera. Hindustan Unilever says that India is over the hump. Sale of shampoos to toileteries to tractors have started picking up. PMI index and infra index is also high on Capex announcements. Pls analyse by February again.
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Vivek Lahore
Oct 26, 2020 11:22am
But India is not competing with Sudan and Somalia for loan waivers!!
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Kublai
Oct 26, 2020 11:23am
Kudos to the author of this article. Indeed, he is brave. If he is currently residing in Bharat. Great blog. Full of truth, made of truth, dishing out truth. He bares the sordid diseased soul of Modi Sarkar and his vociferous junta. It is true that Bharat has slid into the gaping void. And contrary to beliefs there is no turning back.
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Sam
Oct 26, 2020 11:29am
Pakistan has every reason to rejoice!
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MJ
Oct 26, 2020 11:31am
Good to know there are still sane voices in India.
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Sachin
Oct 26, 2020 11:34am
Well well. The sick man is actually leftism not India.
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Fastrack
Oct 26, 2020 11:38am
India is going down an uncontrolled spiral. We just watch and hope for sanity.
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Deepu
Oct 26, 2020 11:40am
Never heard of this guy - Sanjay !!
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PakPassion
Oct 26, 2020 11:41am
A True analysis, written by an Indian and a "Hindu" not a "Muslim" as most of the Indians argue after reading such article "Author's name tell everything."
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Saif Zulfiqar
Oct 26, 2020 11:43am
The main problem wit India is that they have wrong government of BJP/RSS.
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Ahmed A
Oct 26, 2020 11:44am
Wait for the paid BJP trolls to start commenting and liking comments from their comrades.
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vilayat
Oct 26, 2020 11:44am
This guy and his followers are living in fool's paradise.
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Pakman
Oct 26, 2020 12:03pm
@Vivek Lahore, Wow! Modi is in deep trouble the divider in chief of India needs your expert opinion. Please look into your state of affairs and help Modi with your experience and expertise.
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Wajahat Ali Khan
Oct 26, 2020 12:03pm
excellent article by the writer
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Zuk
Oct 26, 2020 12:13pm
And the whole South Asia is giving a sigh of relief....
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Tornado
Oct 26, 2020 12:19pm
Thank you for the article Sanjay. Please name a country which has managed COVID successfully and its economy is thriving with no problems, probably we can follow
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true indian
Oct 26, 2020 12:36pm
@bryan joseph, it is true
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true indian
Oct 26, 2020 12:36pm
@Sam, it will never happen
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Shah
Oct 26, 2020 12:41pm
@Vivek Lahore, India just received financial loans from China. Is this information too hard to digest?
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Rajan
Oct 26, 2020 12:59pm
The author is spot on. Indian social fabric has suffered immensely and will continue to suffer under the present regime. They are incorrigible.
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bhaRAT©
Oct 26, 2020 01:11pm
Was there any doubt under Modi regime's policies?
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Prateik
Oct 26, 2020 01:17pm
On the contrary, India is doing well in all fronts.
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bhaRAT©
Oct 26, 2020 01:20pm
@Ahmed A, Spot on. They come in droves to do that!
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Sajjad Sindhi
Oct 26, 2020 01:47pm
Modi is a great leader. enemies of India are afraid of his achievements.
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bhaRAT©
Oct 26, 2020 01:50pm
@bryan joseph, International media tells you a different story than your controlled pliant media working overtime!
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Ravi J
Oct 26, 2020 01:52pm
India is at least counting the number of infected. I get a feeling that Pakistan is not even attempting to do it.
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Aji
Oct 26, 2020 02:40pm
@Pakman, good dream
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Iftikhar Husain
Oct 26, 2020 02:42pm
The crisis is not to go away Modi has to face the music.
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babubhai
Oct 26, 2020 02:48pm
@Deepu, Ignorance is bliss
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Usman
Oct 26, 2020 02:51pm
@bryan joseph, Perhaps. But keep in mind that 'big' industrialists and analysts will never paint a gloomy picture of the economy as it will hurt their own businesses.
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truevoice
Oct 26, 2020 02:52pm
Not really..Since yesterday's festival and recent mega sales be it online or offline there is no dip in graph.. and soon after pandemic the spike will be back..
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Dipak
Oct 26, 2020 03:20pm
See the other side .
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Akram
Oct 26, 2020 03:23pm
@Vivek Lahore, “ But India is not competing with Sudan and Somalia for loan waivers!!” And you interpret that as greatness?
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Zak
Oct 26, 2020 03:26pm
'endangering the nation’s rise as a credible and stable global player.' Another pipe dream only in mind of Indians.
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Zak
Oct 26, 2020 03:28pm
'As a result, millions of lives are at stake and very soon India will end up having the largest number of coronavirus cases in the world.' Always the case with untaurally oversized and over populated unions like Soviet union. Indian union should have been 10,12 independent seperate countries with nothing in ccommon a then it would not be in this state.
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Leo
Oct 26, 2020 03:33pm
@Vivek Lahore, well remarked!
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Zak
Oct 26, 2020 03:38pm
Stay safe Mr Kumar, you are showing Modi and the RSS the mirror and they won't like the truthful ugliness.
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Zak
Oct 26, 2020 03:45pm
@babubhai, well said.
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skumar
Oct 26, 2020 04:20pm
Any solid data sir , to substantiate your opinion ??
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Raj Singh
Oct 26, 2020 04:22pm
@Saif Zulfiqar, you worry about your country, we have a good govt in place
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Akram
Oct 26, 2020 04:23pm
@Vivek Lahore, but it soon will be...
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Hope
Oct 26, 2020 04:34pm
Everyone can have an opinion.. nothing wrong
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Imran
Oct 26, 2020 04:55pm
lets see what will happen after mid of 2021. I think BJP again use NRC card.
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K H Appan
Oct 26, 2020 05:04pm
Sanjay Kumar is a New Delhi based journalist...The very fact that Sanjay Kumar from India writes like this ,tells that India is a free country and it values freedom....
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Bilal
Oct 26, 2020 05:10pm
@Deepu: You are accustomed to Modi controlled media so you won’t hear about an author who actually speaks the truth.
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Sriniwas
Oct 26, 2020 05:28pm
Freedom of journalism and expression
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Dr. Salaria, Aamir Ahmad
Oct 26, 2020 05:57pm
No doubt, Republic of India under racist Modi and his fascist R.S.S. and BJP cronies has become a true successor of Hitler's Nazi party in Germany of the 1930s and 1940s. Rest as they say is history.
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M. M. Amin ( Old Ravian)
Oct 26, 2020 06:02pm
BJP shall shatter and scatter India to many States as it was prior to the British Raj Mr Kumar has done the accurate study and Analysis
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bhaRAT©
Oct 26, 2020 06:03pm
@Raj Singh, "you worry about your country..." Says the one who is glued here with Pak obsession. Keep doing that to seek truth, as you don’t get it in your controlled media!
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Soomro
Oct 26, 2020 06:12pm
Brave journalist. Stay safe in Modi's India
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Zak
Oct 26, 2020 07:08pm
Modi is doing everything that is wrong for a nation and the consequences are not good but then the type of people, the type of leader.
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Ahmad
Oct 26, 2020 07:44pm
India going backward instead of forward under Modi leadership, his administration is completely failed, handling of covid-19, foreign policy and fall of Indian rupees and environment are major sad back for India.
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bhaRAT©
Oct 26, 2020 07:46pm
@Sajjad Sindhi, Modi is India's enemy!
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Ahmad
Oct 26, 2020 07:49pm
To run Central government and to run State government are two different things, I give credit to Modi to make Gujrat State a great state but he failed as PM of India to run central government.
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Joseph Illinoisan
Oct 26, 2020 07:59pm
Yeah people are sick of Modi tantrums.
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sidney sridhar
Oct 26, 2020 09:08pm
India always used to count for something.. fairness and decency. Gandhi and Nehru left a nation respected around the world. BJP under Modi has shown how easy it is to reduce everything to majoritarianism and opportunism. India has no principles, fairness and openness. Hopefully, this can be restored!
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Vivek
Oct 26, 2020 10:38pm
@MJ, same or sick ?
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csh080
Oct 27, 2020 02:08am
@Deepu, ignorance is bliss!
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Robert
Oct 27, 2020 02:08am
Thank heavens for all the women of South Asia are healthy.
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Alla Bux
Oct 27, 2020 04:24am
India is going through a phase. Once the Chinese virus is gone it will spring back.
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IMTIAZ FARUQUI
Oct 27, 2020 04:32am
The curse of thousands of innocent Kashmires . who were killed by Indian security forces in these 70 years, have fallen on India. KARMA.What goes around comes around.
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Abdul
Oct 27, 2020 04:45am
Wait for next 6 months and truth will be out
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Syed Nazim
Oct 27, 2020 05:26am
The worst victim of BJP and RSS policies and action has been Hinduism.
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Javed
Oct 27, 2020 05:30am
Yet, Pakistan remains obsessed with India. That's what I like. Keep that up. Lol
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Ahmed
Oct 27, 2020 06:01am
@Abdul, India would come out self reliant and more progressive
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INDEPENDENT
Oct 27, 2020 07:27am
@Vivek Lahore, Nawaz Sharif and Zardari have gone, Pakistan is now inclining.
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Vijay
Oct 27, 2020 07:31am
Thanks, Modi is making India great again!
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INDEPENDENT
Oct 27, 2020 07:32am
@Sajjad Sindhi, India has lost its credibility at all fronts.
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Robin
Oct 27, 2020 10:38am
Corona virus has brought out the worst in terms of economy. The economy is set to rebound by next year. India is talented and literacy is at all time high so this situation is going to be temporary.
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Fastrack
Oct 27, 2020 10:53am
I wonder why Indians come to our newspapers. I have no clues.
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