Jaishankar’s problem is stark – no amount of external PR can cover up India’s truth


External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar File PHOTO/ANI

Freedom House and V-Dem are no gold standards of democracy rating. But Jaishankar must know that just pointing out Western hypocrisy won’t cover India’s reality.

S Jaishankar has an unenviable task. He has been handed over the job to give a liberal gloss to a government that cannot spell l-i-b-e-r-a-l. More than manage external relations, he is here to manage external public relations, to ensure that the Narendra Modi government doesn’t get a bad international image. Now, that’s manifold more challenging than managing domestic media, mostly darbari if not outright sarkari, with a handful of carrots and sticks. So, you shouldn’t blame the hon’ble Minister of External Affairs if he occasionally botches it up.

As he did last Saturday at the India Today conclave.  He was asked about India’s downgrading by two of the leading democracy rating agencies. The US-based non-government organisation Freedom House released a report that classified India as “partly free”, down from “free” earlier. Sweden-based Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Institute has categorised India as an “electoral autocracy”. Jaishankar was aggressive in his response: “It is hypocrisy. We have a set of self-appointed custodians of the world who find it very difficult to stomach that somebody in India is not looking for their approval, is not willing to play the game they want to play. So they invent their rules, their parameters, pass their judgements and make it look as if it is some kind of global exercise.”

Now, Jaishankar is an educated man. He must know some basic logical fallacies that any intelligent argument must avoid. Usually, at the top of that list is ad hominem, Latin for “against the man”. This happens when someone replaces logical argumentation with criticism based on personal characteristics, background or other features irrelevant to the argument at issue. One variety of ad hominem is called “tu quoque”, Latin for “you too”. It distracts from the argument by pointing out hypocrisy in the opponent. This is a logical fallacy and does not prove anything simply because even hypocrites can tell the truth. When an otherwise intelligent and educated person uses this type of argumentation, you know he is really short on logic and facts.

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