Asian studiesPolitical studies

India’s Democracy Under Strain: A Shadow Over Its Shining Rise

India, the world’s largest democracy, stands at a crossroads.  Boasting a vibrant constitution that enshrines fundamental rights, India also grapples with persistent human rights concerns. Yet, a disquieting trend threatens to cast a long shadow over this “shining rise.”  In recent years, concerns about human rights abuses under the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi have intensified.

The US-India relationship has flourished in recent decades, driven by shared concerns over China’s rise and a desire for deeper economic and security cooperation.  The designation of India as a “Major Defense Partner” and the launch of the ICET initiative highlight the strategic importance of this partnership.  However, a growing chorus of voices warns against turning a blind eye to human rights issues within India.

Reports of extrajudicial killings, religious discrimination, and crackdowns on dissent paint a troubling picture.  Marginalized communities, such as Dalits and Adivasis, face entrenched social inequalities.  While India has made strides in economic development, these benefits haven’t always reached the most vulnerable.

Ignoring these concerns would be a strategic misstep.  A nation built on democratic principles loses its legitimacy on the world stage when it fails to uphold them within its own borders.  Moreover, overlooking human rights violations risks emboldening authoritarian tendencies within India, ultimately weakening a key strategic partner.

The US must navigate this complex terrain with diplomacy and principle.  Open dialogue with Indian counterparts on human rights issues is crucial.  Supporting independent media and civil society organizations strengthens India’s democratic fabric. The upcoming Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing offers a valuable platform to engage in such discussions.

A strong US-India relationship remains vital, but it cannot come at the expense of human rights. The US must encourage India to live up to its constitutional ideals, fostering a partnership rooted in shared values and a commitment to a more just and equitable world.  Only then can this strategic alliance truly flourish.

The US State Department’s 2022 Country Reports paint a concerning picture. Restrictions on religious and press freedoms, violence targeting minorities, and the harassment of civil society organizations all raise serious red flags. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom’s consistent recommendation to designate India as a “Country of Particular Concern” speaks volumes about the perceived severity of these violations.

This isn’t mere rhetoric. Renowned human rights organizations like the ABA Center for Human Rights, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Amnesty International have all published reports highlighting worrying trends.  These reports detail incidents of violence directed at religious minorities, particularly Muslims, and the stifling of dissent through arrests of journalists and activists.

While India grapples with complex issues like poverty and national security, these concerns cannot be used as a shield to justify human rights abuses. A robust democracy thrives on open discourse, religious tolerance, and a free press. Stifling dissent and targeting minorities not only undermines these core principles but also risks isolating India from the international community.

The world watched with admiration as India rose from the ashes of colonialism. Now, the world watches with concern as its democratic ideals seem to be under strain. India has the potential to be a true global leader, but that potential can only be realized if it upholds the very values that underpin a thriving democracy – respect for human rights, freedom of expression, and the rule of law.

This is a crucial juncture for India. Will it choose the path of authoritarianism, sacrificing its democratic principles for perceived short-term gains? Or will it recommit itself to the ideals that fueled its rise, becoming a true champion of human rights and a global leader built on a foundation of liberty and justice for all? The answer will determine not only India’s future but also its place in the world.

Muhammad Wasama Khalid is a Correspondent and Researcher at Global Affairs. He is pursuing his Bachelors in International Relations at National Defense University (NDU). He has a profound interest in history, politics, current affairs, and international relations. He is an author of Global Village Space, Global Defense

Wasama Khalid

Muhammad Wasama Khalid is a Correspondent and Researcher at Global Affairs. He is pursuing his Bachelors in International Relations at National Defense University (NDU). He has a profound interest in history, politics, current affairs, and international relations. He is an author of Global Village Space, Global Defense Insight, Global Affairs, and Modern Diplomacy. He tweets at @Wasama Khalid and can be reached at Wasamakhalid@gmail.com

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