India’s challenge in dealing with international criticism


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- International scrutiny of India's domestic policies and dealing with them

Tweets by international celebrities in support of farmers’ protests and the government’s response to it have brought focus the issue of international scrutiny of India’s policies. The article analyses this issue.

Issue of external criticism of India

  • Recently, India has been at the receiving end of international criticism over its dealing with the farmers’ protests against recently passed farm laws.
  • But neither the negative international scrutiny nor the Indian nationalist rejection of it are new.
  • Mobilising nationalist sentiment and evoking territorial sovereignty in fending off external criticism have been consistent themes in the conduct of independent India’s foreign policy.
  • The intensity of international scrutiny has varied over time and space, but they are unlikely to ever disappear.
  • As India becomes more connected to the world, there will be more global interest in its internal dynamics.
  • At the same time, like all rising powers, India will push back against demands that it must always measure up to external expectations.

Why the Western criticism matters

  • Western power to turn sensible sentiments on democracy and human rights into consistent policies is rather limited.
  • Also, the issue of human rights has never been the sole factor shaping US foreign policy towards other nations.
  • But there is no denying that the Western power to create problems is real.
  • There are also implications of needless political arguments with the US over your domestic politics.
  • Asian realists also know that it is not difficult to neutralise Western liberal critics by emphasising engagement with others that might have commercial and security interests.

Dealing with the criticism in the U.S. Congress

  • In the early 1990s, passing resolutions against India on Punjab and Kashmir in the US Congress was routine.
  • But once Delhi began to engage with US Congress and explained the complexity of the issues involved, the tide began to turn.
  • The Indian diaspora helped by reaching out to their representatives and pressing them to reconsider their positions.
  • Within a decade, supporters of separatism in Punjab and Kashmir could not even move the resolutions in the US Congress.

Domestic polarisation and role of diaspora in international criticism

  • India’s problem is not with external criticism, India’s real challenge is the deepening domestic political divide.
  • India’s internal conflicts have inevitably enveloped the diaspora.
  • Sections of the diaspora that are opposed to Indian policies are actively mobilising the political class in their adopted countries to raise the voice against India.
  • They are also building wider coalitions to put the Indian government on the mat.
  • If the diaspora in the past helped India overcome some difficult problems with the US, it is the counter mobilisation of the diaspora that is shaping the western criticism of India.

Way forward

  • The government’s ability to overcome external criticism depends on rebuilding the national consensus on key policies and healing the multiple social rifts.
  • Without a visible and sincere political effort to promote unity at home, internal divisions will get worse and make India more vulnerable to external meddling.

Consider the question “Recently, India has been at the receiving end of the international criticism for its internal issues. What are the reasons for such criticism? Suggest the strategy to deal with such criticisms.” 


India’s own experience with Sri Lanka and Nepal underlines how hard it is to persuade other societies to accept Delhi’s preferences on the rights of minorities and federalism. In the end, democracy and pluralism can never be foreigner’s gifts. The struggle to construct and preserve democracies remains an internal one.

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