In an op-ed in Israel’s The Haaretz, Kanwal Sibal, a former Foreign Secretary of India and the brother of Congress leader Kapil Sibal, said that the visit of American president Donald Trump to India is a matter of ‘humiliation’ for the Modi haters. Sibal served as a member of India’s National Security Advisory board between 2008 and 2010. He was India’s ambassador to various countries such as France, Russia, and Turkey.
He cautioned the opinion makers in Israel to be watchful of the propaganda peddled against the BJP-led Union Government by ultra left-leaning students, the opposition and the ‘Westernised intellectual’ class in India that has been “orphaned” ever since Prime Minister Modi came to power.
“They are agitating about violence against minorities, the poor and the traditionally oppressed classes – the “Dalits”- with no relation to the realities on the ground.”
The career diplomat said that the vehement opposition to the current political dispensation stemmed from its resounding victory in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha polls. He accused the Opposition of exploiting opportunities to create unrest and ‘resistance’ on the streets due to their inability to counter the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) politically.
Kanwal Sibal praised PM Narendra Modi for enhancing the stature of India abroad and for successfully forging strong diplomatic relations with China, Russia, Israel, the United States, and the Gulf countries.
Sibal argued that the opposition, desperate to tarnish the image of the BJP in the international circle, portrayed the party as ‘nationalist’, right-wing, intolerant, anti-Muslim, anti-secular, fascist and genocidal. “As such, the hate-filled propaganda found many takers in the ‘liberal’ West”, he added.
“Israelis, whether in the media or civil society, should be concerned that such loose use of terms actually trivializes the abominable atrocities against the Jews. This kind of thoughtless exaggeration ought not to be reproduced uncritically in the Israeli media.”
He also applauded the humanitarian Citizenship Amendment Act that seeks to fast-track the citizenship process of persecuted religious minorities who had fled to India before 2015 from the neighbouring Islamic Republics of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Sibal argued that the law was adopted following an “open, transparent and fully democratic process” and it does not revoke the citizenship of any Indian Muslim. But, hard-hitting facts have not stopped the opposition from casting aspersions about the law.
The former diplomat explained how contrary to the neighbouring countries, India’s minorities have been ensured protection by the Constitution and granted the authority to run religious institutes. He emphasised that while the Muslim population grew from 9.8% in 1951 to 14.2% in 2011 in India, the population of Hindus and Sikhs declined from 23% to 5% in Pakistan.
Kanwal Sibal unearthed the link between local Islamic elements and Pakistani agencies in encouraging the large influx of Bangladeshi Muslims (roughly 20 million) and creating security issues in India. He also blamed the porous borders drawn on the basis of religious demographics in 1947 and the absence of a citizenship roll for being a contributor to the problem.
While batting for the National Register of Citizens (NRC), Sibal said that illegal Bangladeshi immigrants easily merge in the local Muslim population which makes it difficult to identify them. He also pointed out the nexus between local parties and illegal immigrants who are shielded from eviction in exchange for votes.
Sibal stressed on the dangers of Islamic terror in India’s neighbourhood by quoting the rise of radical Islam in Bangladesh, the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.
He argued that a citizenship roll was necessary for maintaining India’s sovereignty, security, social harmony and ensuring that the beneficiaries of the government schemes are genuine citizens.
Sibal urged outside observers to understand the dynamics of India’s internal politics. He accused the Western media of framing issues such as the NRC and the CAA in terms of the rise of nationalism, refugee crisis, migration and targeting of minorities.
In the interest of their own credibility, the foreign media should not neglect its responsibility to ensure objective reporting.
He highlighted that the BJP, that is often labelled as ‘fascist’ has been the strongest supporter of Israel while the leftists who make such baseless accusations have been the most anti-Israel. Sibal said that far from disenfranchising 220 million Indian Muslims and creating a civil war-like situation in the country, PM Narendra Modi is focused on making India a $5 trillion economy.
The leaders of western democracies do see shared values of democracy, pluralism, human freedoms and private enterprise with India as a strong basis of partnership at a time when powerful authoritarian regimes are projecting their political and economic systems as superior to liberal western systems.
Donald Trump, who sat foot in Ahmedabad on February 24 has no issues with the steps taken by the Indian Government, keeping its internal affairs in mind. Kanwal Sibal, however, observed that the US State Department has made “some prescriptive pronouncements” on them. In his final comments, he argued that the challenges faced by India in terms of its border security (due to past illegal immigration) are different from that faced by Israel and the United States and must thus be interpreted as such.