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.


Sanjay Kumar Published

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.


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.

印度资深记者哈里什·哈雷(Harish Khare)最近在评论当前形势时写道,印度政治正在滑向“一个上世纪70年代中期定型的独裁型‘第三世界’国家”,对于这个国家的走向,它目前的管理层或许应该停止自诩这个国家将成为有抱负的世界领袖。

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.