As if by cruel divine orchestration, a series of events have rocked the image of India in the last 72 hours. Against the backdrop of two massive scandals that have rocked the image of the country’s military, the country’s largest expo on defense equipment, the DEFEXPO 2012 got underway in New Delhi today. Additionally, as incidents related to complicated bi-lateral relations and foreign policy are brought to the fore, the country welcomed the world’s press to the 4th BRICS Summit 2012 in New Delhi. These incidents could not have come at worse time for the BRICS Summit – almost as if they were akin to a planned demonstration intended to rain down on the summit’s success.
While on the one hand, India continues to be heralded as the next great economic superpower – one that will supposedly be the world’s largest economy by 2050 – several recent issues and controversies have seemingly thrown cold water on this. If the last 72 hours is anything to go by, India has a lot of work to do to regain its global image of being the tiger to China’s dragon that will drive the world forward in the 21st century.
Here is a look at 4 key incidents over the past 3 days which have directly impacted the tonality of coverage that India receives in the international media.
March 26th – Army Bribe Scandal
In an interview with The Hindu, the Indian Army Chief, General Vijay Kumar Singh, said that a lobbyist had offered him a bribe of Rs. 14 crore ($2.79 million) in order to clear 600 sub-standard vehicles for purchase. What followed this bombshell was a deluge of press about the event, 2 adjourned and raucous Rajya Sabha sessions, and a vociferous back and forth between the Army Chief, Defense Minister, and other politicians and stakeholders involved. In short, if it wasn’t enough that this revelation once again highlighted the high level of corruption that permeates through Indian society, the aftermath has only underscored how immature and blame-ready our leaders would appear to other nations.
March 26th – Self Immolation in Protest
On the same day, a Tibetan man set himself on fire to protest the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao for the upcoming BRICS Summit in New Delhi. He sustained 98% burns on his body and died in hospital some time later. This unfortunate incident, set against a slew of similar protests in the capital as well as allegations of arrests by police to curb such protests, has only brought focus back on the complexities on Indian foreign policy as well as the tendency of the police to allow the ends to serve the means.
March 27th – Naxal Bus Attack
With the country’s focus on our armed forces intact, a landmine blast by Naxalites killed 15 CRPF personnel in Maharashtra on Tuesday. Not only did this continue to highlight the fragile state of our national security, but also brought to the fore the various regional factions and the spreading network of homegrown security concerns that hamper the image of India as a safe country.
March 28th –Army Chief Letter Leak
In what can only be described as a unbelievably tumultuous week for the Army Chief, his claims about the scandal were followed up on Wednesday with the leak of a confidential letter that he wrote to the Prime Minister. The letter highlights the pitiable state of the Indian Army, bringing to the PM’s attention several crippling deficiencies of the army – among others, the Army has no night combat capabilities, serious lacks in adequate weaponry, and shortage of critical ammunition to destroy enemy tanks. The international media have jumped on this story – causing not only rising tensions between stakeholders, but also hampering India’s image as a credible global superpower capable of defending itself.