As India's economic stature in the world grows, it is also obliged to bring its stand on civil liberties and democratic values up to the mark. Even as it must accept its own flaws and make amends, India needs to also recognise and condemn attacks on fundamental human rights and democracies around the world.
What is of urgent importance right now is for India to condemn the rapid destruction of democracy in Venezuela. If it doesn't do so now, then it is in danger of being seen, both at home and internationally, as an opportunistic business corporation that is only interested in buying and selling, in this case oil and pharmaceuticals. Venezuela is currently going through a bloody upheaval that shows no signs of letting down. In the fight against state tyranny and for egalitarianism, a 20-year old protester was only last week gunned down by state security forces, taking the death toll up to 37, with another 717 injured and 152 jailed over a period of two months. Reeling under gross mismanagement of the treasury and the infliction of toxic damage on the economy, citizens have been protesting the state's blatant heavy handedness in suppressing dissent of any kind. Venezuelans have been calling for next year's presidential elections to be brought forward, along with the release of all political prisoners.
If [India does not condemn Venezuela], it is in danger of being seen as an opportunistic business corporation that is only interested in buying and selling...
Aware of its extreme unpopularity, and its sure decimation at the polls, the ruling party headed by Nicolás Maduro has been resorting to desperate and callous measures to remain in power. The Supreme Court, under the government's control, invalidated the opposition-controlled National Assembly, in effect turning the nation into a dictatorship, only to revoke it after facing international criticism. It then went on to engineer the disqualification of the opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski from future elections. The state has held another opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, as prisoner for more than two years, for organising protests. Peaceful campaigners are being repressed by the National Guard and National Police by the reckless use of rubber pellets and tear gas canisters being fired directly at people's bodies, in direct violation of the Geneva Convention. There are reports of tear gas seeping into people's homes.
For India to remain relevant in the international arena and to go beyond mere economic influence, it must take a stand against nation states such as Venezuela which have turned against their own people. In such a scenario, every word of condemnation from other democracies will bolster the resolve and strength of the tyrannised.
Venezuela's ambassador to India, Augusto Monitel, recently called for a closed press conference. As if giving India a special friendship badge by turning the whole of the so-called Western world into adversaries, blaming them for all of Venezuela's woes, the ambassador denounced "imperialist powers" and went on to say:
"We would like support from every nation, including India, to help keep our sovereignty without any foreign intervention as is provided in the Charter of United Nations. Those are main principles and we in Venezuela conform to the notion and respect every country and expect the same in return."
India, with its burgeoning influence in world affairs, must of course reject this offer of quasi-friendship and instead summon the ambassador to explain why indeed is the government that he represents, in a desperate attempt to retain the sovereignty that he talks about, only retaining it within the confines of a few people? If this sovereignty is so important then why is his President infinitely delaying regional elections for state governors and legislative assemblies, which were due in 2016? And lastly the ambassador must be asked if his president is afraid of losing.
For India to remain relevant in the international arena and to go beyond mere economic influence, it must take a stand against nation states such as Venezuela...
It is sure sign of a despot trying to hold a false screen of landscaped serenity in front of a burning scene when the ambassador says:
"They are trying to create a big lie about a failed state... Venezuela is a country with 100% literacy. No child dies of malnutrition in Venezuela. It is doing very well."
But what the ambassador is not aware is that the sham screen that he is holding is itself on fire and the horror of Venezuela is raging for all to see. The International Monetary Fund has declared the nation as the worst economy in the world, with the biggest concern being food and medicine shortages.
Can India really afford to keep silent?