Another rejection of the West finds wide resonance with the new India
Dr S Jaishankar’s public engagements with the West, as India’s Foreign Minister, are slowly becoming a legend. His clarity of thought and the patient and refined manner in which he defends India’s case, with a mischievous smile at times, have aroused enormous enthusiasm.
The internet is awash with memes of flaming red-eyed, shape-shifting Jaishankar, to signal and represent a new India moving with confidence. Some even use this image as their profile picture. And it is regularly referred to as ‘The Chadshankar’ – a portmanteau based on ‘chad‘, which is modern slang for an arrogant, irrepressible alpha male who just can’t be beat.
There’s a reason for Jaishankar’s popularity: they’re a new generation asserting themselves, without the baggage of post-colonial misery, or an inferiority complex based on the color of their skin.
They see in him what they see in themselves and in their nation: that we will not be despised, intimidated or pushed around, and that we will be safeguard our interests in accordance with morality and international law.
This new India is done with hypocrisy, and Jaishankar’s arguments resonate with their feelings.
His latest hit was composed at a security conference in Bratislava, Slovakia. It was a commanding performance for many reasons, one of which was very intriguing.
The first point Jaishankar underscored was the financially prudent manner in which India has emerged from the Wuhan virus pandemic: “We didn’t break the bank by responding.”
This is something economist KV Subramaniam elaborated eloquently last week in a – the Modi government has avoided the inflation trap that a number of developed economies have fallen into this year because India tailored aid programs to deserving recipients through a globally unique digital process rather than ‘breaking the bank’ with gargantuan, indiscriminate stimuli, as America did last year.
Speaking of Ujjwala Yojana, which replaced firewood with cooking gas in 80 million homes, Jaishankar said it was tantamount to changing German kitchens in the space of a few years. Note how he used a Western analogy with a Western audience, to emphasize the scale and scope of the many social welfare programs undertaken by the Indian government.
The second point he insisted on was that Europe should pay more attention to other parts of the world rather than focusing on its own problems. The geopolitical and economic consequences of the Russian-Ukrainian war have been that there is now a fuel crisis, a food crisis and a fertilizer crisis, the global impact of which includes the welfare schemes in India that he talked about .
Likewise, the mess left by Europe and America in Afghanistan was now on India’s head. And the belligerence displayed by China along the Indian border was on a level not seen since 1962.
But his interlocutor was more interested in knowing why India had not joined the West in sanctioning Russia.
Why was India buying more oil from Russia instead? Did India really expect the West to come to its aid against China if India undermined Western sanctions against Russia? With what axis was India, and against which? Wasn’t India financing the war by buying Russian crude at a discount? Wasn’t that profit?
It was then that Jaishankar shifted gears. In a series of languid precision strikes, he proceeded to unravel a series of Western hypocrisies, dismantle some common anti-Indian narratives and debunk Western misconceptions.
If India buying Russian crude was “funding the war”, then so was Germany buying Russian gas. If Europe could announce new sanctions against Russia but exempt hydrocarbons to avoid overburdening its population, then why would India be wrong to do the same? “People need to understand that if you can be considerate of yourself, surely you can be considerate of others,” he said.
Regarding China, Jaishankar said India was fully capable of handling the situation on its own.
Regarding wheat, he revealed that the Indian government had been forced to intervene and reduce private exports because foreign traders were trying to corner the Indian wheat market and stockpile grain to sell to higher rates. This could not be allowed as it was hoarding by any definition, and would deprive poorer countries that desperately needed this wheat, or place an unaffordable burden on their needs.
Then came the coup de grace: Jaishankar asked that if there was indeed such a critical shortage of crude oil in the world right now, what was stopping America and Europe from allowing Iranian oil to enter the market. ” They have [The West] squeezed every source of oil we have and then say, guys, you don’t have to go to the market and get the best deal for yourselves.
It was a historic moment because it was the first time that an Indian politician of such seniority exposed so brutally to the West his hypocrisy towards Iran. Twisting the knife further, he asked about Venezuela, another major exporter whose crude oil production had been severely reduced by sanctions.
It is a point which swarajya been doing for years that the global oil shortage is, in fact, a glut. An illusion of scarcity has been created by serially sanctioning major oil exporters like Iran, Libya, Venezuela and now Russia to promote the production of shale deposits in America, with an eye on European and Asian markets .
Indeed, the declared American end point of the Russian-Ukrainian war is that it will replace Russia as Europe’s main energy supplier. Hearing India’s foreign minister say what he did in Bratislava is therefore strong enough validation.
Now, we shouldn’t read too much into Jaishankar’s Iranian reference, or jump to infer that something is brewing between New Delhi and Tehran. But we also have to admit that this is the first time that India has spoken so candidly in public about how Iran has been treated so conveniently by the West as a pariah state for decades, and it will pay dividends. .
Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian will make his first visit to India next week, after taking office last year. This follows a visit to Kabul earlier this week by JP Singh, the foreign ministry’s joint secretary in charge of the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran division.
Yet when the interviewer pressed India’s neutrality, Jaishankar handed him a line that instantly went viral: “You know, somewhere, Europe has to get out of the mindset that the Europe’s problems are the world’s problems, but the world’s problems are not Europe’s problems.
Indeed, what Jaishankar sought to explain in Bratislava is that India will not be shackled by blocks or labels. Terms like “neutral” and “unaligned” have lost their meaning because they too are essentially binary in nature. Thus, one country could be fully aligned with another, partially or not at all, or neutral, or indifferent, or some or all of the above. And it could choose to do so, at the same time, with several countries whose mutual relations vary on the whole, because its objective is the achievement of his national interests.
It’s not as if America and the West got India’s approval before severing political and economic ties with Russia while stripping Ukraine. Indeed, on the contrary, India advised against this course of action, in public, and warned that it would lead to various upheavals elsewhere.
If, after that, they complain that India is not respecting their position by sanctioning Russia, then the repeated reprimands they receive from Jaishankar are the least they deserve.
Bottom line: the longer these nations persist in their moralizing and virtue signalling, the easier it will be for Jaishankar and India to dismantle institutional hypocrisies and expose these powerful narratives for what they really are.