NEW DELHI -- In a damning editorial, The New York Times has pointed out that business leaders in India and abroad are balking at the prevailing atmosphere of intolerance gripping India, and the financial community is dismayed at Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "willingness to tolerate, even encourage, the Hindu hard-liners in his own party."
"The plain truth is that India is being rived by hatred and held hostage to the intolerant demands of some Hindu hard-liners. This is not the India a vast majority of Indian citizens want and it is not an India that will attract the foreign investment Mr. Modi has worked hard to drum up on his many trips abroad," says the editorial titled The Costs of Hindu Extremism.
While Modi is often dismissive about media outlets critical of his point-of-view, NYT is one of the most influential newspapers in the United States, which has a role in informing as well as fashioning public opinion. And no Indian leader has done as much to woo the American president, American companies and American investors.
With the economy in a downward spiral at the end of the Congress Party-led government's second tenure, Modi came to power on the promise of development and investment. To this end, the Prime Minister has been trotting the globe to get world leaders excited about bringing business to India.
During his trip to the West Coast, last month, Modi made a valiant effort to pitch India as an investment destination for Silicon Valley firms, courting chief executives at such marquee names as Facebook, Google and Apple.
Rein Them In
Last week, Moody's Corporation became the first global institution to warn Modi that political bungling could have grave economic consequences.
Advising the Prime Minister to rein in Bharatiya Janata Party leaders from making controversial statements, a Moody’s Analytics report said, "Modi must keep his members in check or risk losing domestic and global credibility."
So far, Modi has not made any offensive remarks, and he has kept a distance from the tirade of insensitive statements made by his party members: one BJP leader described the lynching of a Muslim man over beef rumours as an "unfortunate accident," another one said that Shah Rukh Khan's spirit lives in Pakistan after the Bollywood actor spoke about the need to respect all religions, and a third one said that he would behead Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah if he dares to eat beef.
While Modi has advocated peace and tolerance on several occasions, it is widely regarded that his speeches lack the conviction needed to turn the tide against extremism, and he has failed to silence right-wing groups.
More often than not, Modi appears to speak of tolerance only when pushed into a corner. The country had to wait for a long time for him to address the series of attacks against churches which started soon after the BJP came into power. He finally spoke in February, 2015, shortly after President Barack Obama said that Mahatma Gandhi would have been shocked at the acts of intolerance in India.
Once again, India had to hold its breath for 10 days before Modi spoke on the horrifying lynching of a Muslim ironsmith in western Uttar Pradesh by a mob alleging that he had slaughtered cow on September 28.
Forced to speak in the midst of rising turmoil, Modi said that Indians need to fight poverty, not Muslims, and he advised the public to ignore hate speeches. But his first direct reference to the lynching as "very sad" failed to reciprocate the enormity of the crime against a member of the minority community.
Last week, Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy said that "there is considerable fear in the minds of minority in India."
Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, managing director of Biocon, said business leaders are “concerned with what’s happening all across the country," and the prevailing environment "creates a kind of concern about investing in country."
Lord Meghnad Desai, an Indian-born economist, said that the "tone" of junior leaders of the BJP "is very openly hostile to Muslims."
"It's basically the anti-Muslim tone of some of the BJP Ministers and MPs which actually for a lot of people is wrong and it is time that the leaders of BJP said so openly and clearly," he said.
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