Modi’s media ploy
New Delhi continues with its efforts to use Pakistan as a bogeyman to divert attention from its human rights abuses in Kashmir and general mismanagement of the Indian economy and state. After nine months of torturing people with the lockdown in Occupied Kashmir and ravaging the economy and society with one of the worst-managed Covid-19 responses in the world, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi turned to his security forces to give him a way to change the news cycle. With its actions on the Line of Actual Control, the Indian Army incompetently handed him a choice between sparking World War Three or publicly begging for mercy from the Chinese.
Modi is many things — mostly terrible — but he is not a fool. He knows India cannot win a war with China. But he also knows he cannot show weakness, or his Hindutva base will eat him alive. Most democratic parties cannot handle the political fallout of foreign policy humiliation. For fascist parties, it is a death knell. Thus, it would appear that he is trying to rig the news cycle by accusing Pakistani embassy officials of espionage. While the compliant Indian media keeps parroting the government’s version of events — we came across only one major Indian publication that referenced the Pakistani Foreign Office’s response to the charges — Modi has time to quietly make peace with China on Beijing’s terms without being tarred and feathered by his own people.
Speaking of feathers, India already tried to divert attention to Pakistan with another ludicrous spy pigeon story. When this was lambasted even by their own media, some popular Indian propaganda news channels tried and failed at blaming Pakistan for the locust crisis hitting both countries. Even the FO noted the curious circumstances of the expulsion of embassy staffers. “The Indian action has been accompanied by a negative pre-planned and orchestrated media campaign, which is a part of persistent anti-Pakistan propaganda,” said a Foreign Office statement.
By the time the focus shifts back to the real story along the border, the Indian government will divert attention to some other talking point. Probably its continuing failure to handle Covid-19.
Anew report by Amnesty International, the London-based rights group, slams Ethiopian security forces over grave violations of human rights, during operations in Amhara and Oromia. The long list of violations includes extrajudicial executions, mass detentions, and torture. All of this happened on Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s watch, who took office in 2018. The very next year, Ahmed also received the coveted Nobel Peace Prize for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea.
While the prime minister can take credit for ending hostilities with neighbouring Eritrea, a longtime foe, he cannot deny that his term in office has been plagued by ethnic conflict and the unlawful displacement of thousands amid a deteriorating security situation in the country. Ahmed’s biggest failure is his inability to make changes to the way the Centre functions. He walked into office slamming the preceding government over authoritarian practices. But little has changed since he took office. The prime minister has not been able to modify the character of the regime and the current abuses, to a great extent, mirror the violations seen under the previous administrations.
The Amnesty report serves as a warning to the world about a situation that has the potential to morph into a humanitarian crisis. The Ethiopian leader does not have many options and Ethiopia as a nation cannot afford to take any chances. The only way forward is to end the extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests, forced evictions, and destruction of property owned by opposition supporters. Prime Minister Ahmed will have to take measures to ensure the security forces function within limits. He can only do that if he ends the culture of impunity, and by removing elements from the security forces that are responsible for human rights violations. Failing to do so would have dire consequences for Ethiopia.