Australian professor Salvatore Babones has slammed the western media for grossly misrepresenting the astounding success of Bharatiya democracy. “I would like to be the bhakt (disciple) for the world’s most successful democracy,” Babones said at a Delhi event on Wednesday.
Associate Professor at the University of Sydney, Babones is touring Bharat for the past one week sharing his views about Indian intellectuals and democracy. Babones, who has suddenly risen to prominence because of his pro-Bharat observations, said that he has been carefully researching Bharat for the last three years while being in Australia.
Wading into an acerbic international debate, where the Western media has categorised Bharat as a ‘fascist nation’, and international surveys have criticised Bharat for a ‘falling democracy’, Babones said that he finds Bharat’s democracy unique.
Comparing Bharat with other democratic countries globally, Babones said that democracy in eastern European countries is buttressed by European Union (EU) rules. South Korea and Taiwanese democracies are just about 30 years old. Therefore, “you have to look at the world’s best democracies to compare India’s 70-year-old democracy. India is the only post-colonial country to have retained its democracy all these years”.
In an event organised by the Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation (SPMRF), Babones said: “I am not here to defend Indian democracy. That is to be done by the Indians themselves. I am here to expose those who criticise Indian democracy”.
He added that Bharat is an “extreme outlier” in the democracy sweepstakes. “It is the world’s most extraordinarily successful democracy. Yet it has been placed just two levels above post-coup Myanmar,” he observed, adding that Bharat is in a tough neighbourhood and yet it has maintained its democratic tradition. He stressed that Bharat has seen peaceful elections and transfer of power.
Talking about journalism and Bharat’s ranking in the world, the Australian professor said that once again Bharat has been placed close to China over the number of deaths of journalists. Trying to explain these contradictions, he said that people “are cherry-picking data and sharing it selectively. Many journalists function more as activists and end up mis-representing information about India”.
Former CEO of Prasar Bharati Corporation, Shashi Shekhar Vempati said that even the global media is pushing geo-politically sponsored narratives. He said that it is possible because of Bharat’s hostile neighbours, a lot of the information that is against Bharat could be State-sponsored.
Vempati said that a large body of scholarly research has to be conducted to counter the false narratives on Bharat.
Former ambassador to the US, Kanwal Sibal said that as part of the foreign service, he has always been fighting negative perceptions about Bharat.
He said that after the book The City of Joy was published, the European countries retained an enduring image about poverty in Bharat. Another perception in comparison to China was that Bharat never generated enough intellectual capacity.
Sibal added that after the poverty perception, the foreign service had to defend Bharat over its non-aligned status, followed by the nuclear issue, proximity to the USSR and now the country has to defend itself over “strategic autonomy”.
Talking about his time in Washington as Bharat’s ambassador in the nineties, Sibal said: “The West’s obsession with Pakistan brought onslaughts on Bharat regarding Kashmir and human rights. NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) was against us. HRW Asia had direct proximity in the US State Department.”
Replying to a question, Sibal said that a lot of damage has been done to Bharat’s and the BJP’s image by our own people and the Western media. “This ‘business of fascism’ has taken root among people in the Western nations which is unfortunate.”
He pointed out that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has excellent relations with world leaders like Vladimir Putin of Russia and Emmanuel Macron of France. Sibal said that the leaders of the Nordic countries meet Modi and similarly the leaders of the Central Asian Republic (CAR) also have good relations with Modi.
“There is a lot of respect for Modi among many countries and leaders,” Sibal said.
Babones, who has been equally cherished and criticised by the Bharatiya media for his contrarian views that run parallel to the discourse on Bharat said that what Bharat has contributed to democracy is unfathomable because of its diversity.
Replying to questions, Babones said despite Bharat’s democracy and China’s authoritarianism, China’s burnished image is entirely because of money. He added that the US media, and also Hollywood, have made a lot of money from China, which might be reducing now.
Director SPMRF, Anirban Ganguly said that unfair criticism of Bharat by Indian intellectuals has led the foreign media to accept the wrong narrative about Bharat.
(The story has been published via a syndicated feed with minor edits to conform to HinduPost style-guide.)