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Diminishing Democratic Values – A Tale of the Oldest and Largest Democracies
As the world celebrated International Day of Democracy on September 15, the so-called responsible democratic countries around the world should ponder their roles if they want the world to be a better place.
At one stroke the U.S. pulled out of Afghanistan and left Afghans in the lurch. Afghan women now face a grim future. The country has now been thrown into turmoil and violence.
The United States under President Joe Biden, a self-proclaimed champion of democracy, has shunned his responsibility of restoring peace and stability to Afghanistan by withdrawing the United States from the country.
The international vultures in the form of China and Pakistan have cozied up to the Taliban. India is still treading cautiously as they are caught between the devil and the deep sea. There is no alternative other than to accept the Taliban regime, recognize it, and establish contacts to safeguard its own interests.
Now, the moral question is whether the United States and India, the world’s oldest and largest democracies, really care about democracy or whether they are just giving it lip service? The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 16 speaks to “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”
It may be virtually impossible to realize the Global Goal 16 by 2030 with a terror regime like the Taliban strategically located to the north of India. The U.S. engagement with Sri Lanka too hit a roadblock as the former Trump administration pulled out of the UNHRC which failed to hold Sri Lanka accountable for committing human rights violations against Tamils in 2009.
To India’s east, Myanmar witnessed the return of military dictatorship. The whole world condemned the unfolding of events which has led to a severe crackdown on civil rights activists, journalists, and protestors. The United Nations reported that at least 883 civilians, including 40 in custody, were killed by security forces and 5,202 people were languishing in custody.
In this case, too, the U.S. has imposed individual sanctions on 22 people and has condemned the military coup but there is a stark difference to the approach taken by the Obama administration compared to actions taken by the Biden administration.
India has very conveniently muted itself on this issue. In 1992, India had agreed to a UN resolution that had condemned human rights violations by the military junta. This clearly proves that India is looking for a larger economic role in Myanmar and is silent on human rights violations.
The domestic front
Freedom House pushed the U.S. behind by three points from 2020. A report published in March has highlighted a weakened democracy over the past decade. The report titled, “From Crisis to Reform: A Call to Strengthen America’s Battered Democracy,” has identified three crippling problems undermining the U.S. political system: “unequal treatment for people of color, the improper influence of money in politics, and partisan polarization and extremism.”
India was pushed down by four points from 2020. India climbed down from being a “free” to a “partially free” country. To add insult to injury, India was labeled an “electoral autocracy.” The ranking has nosedived from 27 in 2014 to 53 in 2021. The present regime seems to be least bothered about these rankings and seems to be unrattled as democracy continues to be crushed in Jammu and Kashmir, and freedom of speech gets stifled further.
Under these circumstances, it is time for every democracy-loving citizen of the world’s oldest and largest democracies to rethink whether they think democracy can survive much longer.
Paul Newman holds a Doctorate of Philosophy on 'Internal Displacement and Human Rights situation in Northern Sri Lanka' from Bangalore University. He was one of four public speakers at the Permanent People’s Tribunal on War Crimes against Sri Lanka. He also the co-author of 'Unfettered Genocide in Tamil Eelam,' published by Karnataka State Open University, Mysore, India.