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Shashi Tharoor

Shashi Tharoor

MP for Thiruvananthapuram. Author of 17 books. Former Minister of State,Govt.of India. Former UnderSecretaryGeneral,UnitedNations. RTs do not imply endorsement

Articles by Shashi Tharoor

India Looks West

July 1, 2021

A hostile China and the looming US withdrawal from Afghanistan have forced India to rethink its regional strategy. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has thus sought to improve relations with Pakistan and engage with the Taliban – and for now, at least, it appears to be making the right moves.

NEW DELHI – Recent conciliatory moves by India’s nationalist government on its western flank have rightly aroused global interest. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s calculus appears relatively simple. Faced with continued Chinese aggression on India’s northern frontier and a likely Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan, improving relations on the country’s western flank, with Pakistan, seems prudent.

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Pakistan’s Taliban Monster

June 8, 2021

With the Taliban more powerful than ever and poised to reclaim power in Afghanistan, the only external victor will be Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency. But as the ISI knows, the problem with creating and sponsoring militant groups is that they do not always remain under your control.

NEW DELHI – The late head of Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, Lieutenant General Hamid Gul, was fond of boasting that when Afghanistan’s history came to be written, it would record that the ISI, with the help of America, defeated the Soviet Union. And next, he would slyly add, historians would state that the ISI, with the help of America, defeated America.
Making America

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India’s COVID Tsunami

April 26, 2021

The number of infections in India surpassed 17 million in recent days, and the official death toll now exceeds 190,000. How did everything go so wrong so soon after India recovered from the first wave of the pandemic last year, resumed normal life and economic activity, and started exporting vaccines?

NEW DELHI – It is humbling when a columnist must retract his words soon after penning them. Just two months ago, after India rushed millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines to over 60 countries, I praised the country’s “vaccine diplomacy.” India’s aspirations to be recognized as a global power had been given a real boost. Now, with more than 300,000 new cases a day and the death toll evidently much higher than reported, India is no

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Modi’s War on the Press

April 13, 2021

Freedom of the press is the mortar that binds together a free society. If Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to de-institutionalize what used to be a dynamic and independent Fourth Estate persists, public confidence in the media will steadily decline, along with confidence in Indian democracy.

NEW DELHI – A flurry of assaults on freedom of the press in recent months has raised troubling questions about the state of India’s democracy under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India has long had a free and often raucous press. But the situation has changed dramatically since Modi’s government came to power in 2014.

The Geography of Pandemic Effects

PS OnPoint

Peter Zelei

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India’s Smart Vaccine Diplomacy

March 11, 2021

As countries scramble to secure supplies in the face of "vaccine apartheid," India has enhanced its global standing by making vaccines that are readily available in the world’s poorest countries. This effort may one day help India secure recognition as a global power – with a permanent UN Security Council seat to go with it.

NEW DELHI – As countries scramble to secure COVID-19 vaccines, ugly expressions like “vaccine race” and “vaccine nationalism” have entered the global lexicon. But, at a time when global cooperation in sharing vaccines is minimal, and the World Health Organization’s vaccine-distribution plans are yet to get off the ground, India has taken a different tack, quietly pursuing “vaccine diplomacy.” Its “Vaccine

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After Myanmar’s Coup

February 3, 2021

Although Myanmar’s democracy was clearly a work in progress, that progress has now come to a jarring halt with the February 1 military coup. The country’s neighbors are treading warily in its aftermath, and there may be some curious reversals of earlier stances.

NEW DELHI – Until recently, the last time Myanmar’s military supervised a general election whose outcome it didn’t like was back in 1990. On that occasion, a military junta refused to recognize the results, arrested the democratically elected leaders of Aung San Suu Kyi’s overwhelmingly victorious National League for Democracy (NLD), and continued to rule the country via the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC).

Multilateral

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Narendra Modi’s Potemkin Democracy

January 11, 2021

India’s prime minister has an "edifice complex" that has given rise to grand new government buildings, including a planned new parliament. Sadly, the spirit of deliberation and debate that animated the old parliament building risks being left there.

NEW DELHI – Indian legislators woke up in the new year to two realizations. First, the annual winter session of parliament, from which they should just have been emerging, had not taken place at all. And, second, New Delhi’s magnificent parliament complex, a tourist attraction since it was built in 1927, had been turned into a construction site.

Remove and Ban Trump Now

Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

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A Dispatch from India’s Culture War

December 10, 2020

India’s ruling Hindu-chauvinist Bharatiya Janata Party has recently whipped up hysteria over the largely imaginary crime of “love jihad,” reflecting the party’s deeply entrenched Islamophobia. The BJP’s culture war must be fought in the courts – but even more in the hearts of all Indians.

NEW DELHI – As if the raging COVID-19 pandemic, a spluttering economy, record-high unemployment, and massive farmers’ protests besieging the country’s capital weren’t enough, India’s ruling Hindu-chauvinist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has now incited a new crisis: a culture war.

The Costs of Merkel’s Surrender to Hungarian and Polish Extortion

Emmanuele Contini/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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India’s Silenced Parliament

September 11, 2020

With India facing a raging pandemic, an economic crisis, and mounting security threats, its parliament has a vital job on its hands when it reconvenes in mid-September. But the legislature risks being reduced to a noticeboard for the decisions of a government that does not like to be questioned.

NEW DELHI – After a nearly six-month hiatus, the Indian parliament will reconvene in mid-September at a time of deepening national crisis. But I fear that it may be unable to hold the country’s failing government to account.

Reclaiming American Greatness

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images 

The Q-ing of the West

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Whose India?

August 10, 2020

The narrow-minded, sectarian India that has emerged over the past six years will never appeal to the country’s many alienated young people. Only an India that ensures full rights and dignity for all – the promise of liberal democracy – can do that.

NEW DELHI – As India prepares to celebrate the 73rd anniversary of its independence on August 15, a growing number of Indians are coming to believe that the battle to preserve the essence of the country born in 1947 is already lost. Many commentators have concluded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has already, in effect, inaugurated a “second republic” by upending the key assumptions of the first.

How to Prevent the Looming

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India’s China Strategy Is Changing

July 8, 2020

Since independence, India has steadfastly sought strategic autonomy from other great powers. But China’s repeated incursions along the disputed Himalayan border have left it with a stark choice: kowtow to China or align itself with a broader international coalition aiming to curb its neighbor’s geopolitical ambitions.

NEW DELHI – After last month’s clash in the Ladakh region’s Galwan Valley killed 20 Indian soldiers and an unknown number of Chinese troops, the two countries are settling in for a prolonged standoff on their disputed Himalayan frontier, even amid reports of a disengagement at the site of their recent clash. More important, the recent skirmish may have highlighted a broader shift in Asian geopolitics.

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China’s “Peaceful Rise” Vanishes in Thin Air

June 8, 2020

With the world’s attention focused on the pandemic, Chinese troops have been establishing fixed positions in areas that even it considers to be on the Indian side of the disputed Line of Actual Control. The message is clear: China is now the region’s preponderant power, and everyone else should fall in line.

NEW DELHI – COVID-19 isn’t the only threat that has crossed India’s borders this year. According to alarming reports from India’s defense ministry, China has deployed a “significant number” of troops across the disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC) along the countries’ Himalayan frontier. So far, these transgressions have occurred at four points on the world’s longest and most highly disputed border, with

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Remembering the Forgotten Gandhi

March 11, 2020

The Dandi March, which started 90 years ago, inaugurated Mahatma Gandhi’s most successful attempt at civil disobedience against the British Raj. Unfortunately, while the originality of Gandhi’s thought and the example of his life still inspire people around the world, one must wonder if we really have learned what he meant by truth.

NEW DELHI – March 12 marks the 90th anniversary of one of the most momentous events in India’s nationalist struggle: the start of the Dandi March, which inaugurated Mahatma Gandhi’s most successful attempt at civil disobedience against the British Raj. With India’s pluralism and democracy under greater threat today than at any time since independence, the lessons of the march have never been more

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Pariah India

February 17, 2020

For three decades, India’s self-branding as the world’s fastest-growing free-market democracy worked, with world leaders queuing up to visit New Delhi and burdening a generation of diplomatic protocol officers. But in a matter of months, it has all begun to fall apart.

NEW DELHI – After India launched far-reaching economic reforms in 1991, its stature in the world rose steadily. The country was already recognized as a thriving democracy and an example to the world of how to manage diversity in a free and open society. Its enhanced economic clout and the size of its increasingly prosperous market added to its appeal. Its self-branding as the world’s fastest-growing free-market democracy worked; world leaders queuing up to visit

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What Happened to India?

January 7, 2020

The India the world once celebrated – the world’s fastest-growing free-market liberal democracy – seems to be giving way to a violent, intolerant, illiberal autocracy. It is a turn that was long in the making, reflecting the impact of eight major factors on the country’s society and politics.

NEW DELHI – It’s a question I hear increasingly these days. International news media report on repression in Kashmir, mounting Hindu chauvinism, widespread protests against new laws, assaults on women, and more. The India the world once celebrated – the world’s fastest-growing free-market liberal democracy – seems to be giving way to a violent, intolerant, illiberal autocracy.
The Suleimani Assassination and US

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Narendra Modi’s Second Partition of India

December 17, 2019

Democratic India has never had a religious test for citizenship – until now. And the new amendment to the citizenship law approved by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is just one more brick in an edifice of official Islamophobic bigotry.

NEW DELHI – At a time when India’s major national priority ought to be cratering economic growth, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has instead plunged the country into a new political crisis of its own making.
Cronies Everywhere

PS OnPoint

Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Mapping the Digital Economy in 2020

PS OnPoint

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New Hope for Indian Unity

November 11, 2019

At a time when India’s social fabric has been placed under unprecedented stress, Indians greeted the Supreme Court’s ruling on a long-running inter-religious dispute with almost universal relief. The Court’s verdict thus should be viewed as the start of a process of national healing.

NEW DELHI – After eight years of deliberations, India’s Supreme Court has issued a verdict that settles one of the most protracted inter-religious conflicts in the country’s turbulent history. The Court’s decision couldn’t have come at a better time.
The Rise of Nationalism After the Fall of the Berlin Wall

Patrick PIEL/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

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India’s Modi Slowdown

October 16, 2019

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi was overwhelmingly re-elected in May with an even larger majority for his party, many economists expected him to take bold steps to remove the many bottlenecks that have discouraged investors. But no one should believe the Modi government has the ability or the will to fix what it broke.

NEW DELHI – Until recently, Indians had gotten used to taking economic growth for granted. After a decade of annual growth averaging over 9%, India’s economy weathered the post-2008 worldwide recession and grew at a still impressive rate of 7% until 2014-15. Nothing, it seemed, could stop the gravy train from rolling on.
Will Trump Be Removed from Office?

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India’s Democratic Dictatorship

September 13, 2019

Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India’s character is being transformed by a government with no regard for institutions, understandings, and conventions maintained since independence. If this trend continues, India may well soon cease to be the country which Mahatma Gandhi struggled to free.

NEW DELHI – Amid much fanfare, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has completed a hundred days of its second term. Despite his government’s poor record, Modi remains immensely popular personally. This does not bode well for Indian democracy.
The Trump Narrative and the Next Recession

Andrew Harnik/AFP/Getty Images

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Narendra Modi’s New-Model India

August 9, 2019

By asserting direct government control over Kashmir, India’s prime minister is remaking the country in the image of his chauvinist party. The new India is a far cry from the land of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, who preached non-violence, religious co-existence, and the acceptance of difference.

NEW DELHI – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi likes to practice what American generals call “shock and awe.” The last time Modi stunned the country – and was initially applauded for his decisiveness and bold vision – was when he announced, on a few hours’ notice, the demonetization of 96% (in value) of India’s currency. The Indian economy is still dealing with the consequences.

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A Test Match with the Taliban

July 15, 2019

Under the tutelage of Pakistan’s military, the Taliban brought peace to Afghanistan the last time it ruled the country. But it was the peace of the graveyard, which it could establish once again – this time with the support of the United States.

NEW DELHI – At the recent World Cup cricket tournament in England, a plucky Afghan team composed mainly of former refugees gave a surprisingly good account of themselves, including in matches against their neighbors, India and Pakistan. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of two other Afghan teams – the Taliban and the government – that met in Doha, Qatar, earlier this month to agree on a “road map for peace.”
Philanthropy vs. Democracy

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India’s Cult of Modi

May 28, 2019

The recent Indian election will be a case study in how to upend the conventional assumption of electoral politics that an incumbent is judged on his record of performance against his own promises. Prime Minister Narendra Modi fulfilled none of his, so why did voters reward him with a landslide victory?

NEW DELHI – In 2014, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power at the helm of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after articulating a vision of a revived India, a manufacturing giant with high-tech capabilities which could meet the rising aspirations of a growing young population. Modi promised voters that his administration would be an era of “achhe din” (good times), marked by “minimum

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India’s New Social Media Politics

May 1, 2019

As India’s general election continues, there has been little progress in stopping “fake news,” arresting its perpetrators, or limiting its spread. That’s because the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is responsible for disseminating much of it.

NEW DELHI – With India’s general election a few weeks away from its conclusion, a crucial question needs to be revisited: what role have social media played in them?
Capitalism’s Great Reckoning

nuvolanevicata/Getty Images

Brexit Fever is Breaking

Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Trump’s Most Worrisome Legacy

Win McNamee/Getty Images

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A Battle for India’s Soul

April 3, 2019

Every Indian general election beats its predecessor’s record to become the largest in world history. This time, Indian voters must decide whether they want an inclusive country that embodies hope, or a divided one that promotes fear.

NEW DELHI – As India gears up for its general election, one must not lose sight of the sheer size of the exercise, which has been described as the “biggest humanly managed event in the world.” Starting on April 11 and ending on May 23, 900 million eligible voters (including 15 million first-time voters) will decide the fate of nearly 10,000 candidates representing over 500 political parties vying for the 545 seats in the Lok Sabha (House of the People). Every Indian general election beats its

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India’s China Problem in Pakistan

March 4, 2019

The deadly terrorist attack in Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir last month has triggered renewed questions about China’s continued protection of the Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed. Will China continue to block international sanctions against JeM’s leader, Maulana Masood Azhar, who has claimed credit for the attack?

NEW DELHI – One can only hope that the latest tensions between India and Pakistan, which erupted after a terrorist attack last month killed over 40 Indian paramilitary policemen and injured several others in the Pulwama district of the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, will be resolved peacefully. But however the ongoing crisis ends, the conflict between the two countries has cast an interesting

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India’s Vote-Buying Budget

February 13, 2019

By tradition, India’s pre-election budget is an “interim budget” – a modest rollover of expenditures to see the government through for a few months until a new government is elected and presents its own budget. Not this time.

NEW DELHI – One sign that an Indian general election is imminent, and that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is readying its campaign pitch, is the government’s final pre-election budget. By tradition, it is an “interim budget” – a modest rollover of expenditures to see the government through for a few months until a new government is elected and presents its own budget. But, in issuing its last budget at the beginning of February, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government went much further than its

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Indian Farmers in Revolt

January 15, 2019

During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tenure, the costs of agricultural inputs, and therefore of cultivation, have risen alarmingly, while prices for agricultural products, and therefore farm incomes, have stagnated or dropped. No wonder the Indian countryside is seething with anger and despair.

NEW DELHI – When Prime Minister Narendra Modi led his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to a landslide victory in the 2014 general election, he promised to be all things to all voters, eloquently promising “achhe din” (good days) for India. One of his target audiences was farmers; the agriculture sector still accounts for 67% of employment, and he grandly promised farmers that his government would double their incomes by

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A Comeback for Congress

December 20, 2018

The unexpected defeat of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in three state elections this year partly reflects the failure of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s national government to deliver on its economic promises. But it also suggests that the country’s main opposition party will be highly competitive in the 2019 general election.

NEW DELHI – The stunning victory this month of the opposition Indian National Congress in three elections to state assemblies – the local “parliaments” that decide who governs federal India’s 29 provincial units – is a major blow to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The elections’ outcome has dramatically upended Modi supporters’ complacent prediction that he would be

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Gandhi and the End of Empire

December 7, 2018

Two new books bring sharply different perspectives to bear on the history of British imperialism in India up until the end of the Raj in 1947. Together, they offer important insights into how national political identities can evolve on the basis of self-awareness or self-delusion.

NEW DELHI – The books under review both describe the people and events that shaped the final years of the British Raj in India, and demonstrate a magisterial command of their subject. But the similarities end there: these books could not be more different in the ground they cover or, ultimately, in their sympathies.The first is by Ramachandra Guha, a well-known Indian historian whose previous works include an excellent biography of Mahatma Gandhi’s

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India’s Deadly Air

November 13, 2018

Complacency has turned a pollution problem into a high-cost public health crisis. The Indian public, so easily distracted by issues of identity politics like temple-building and rewriting history, should be demanding something far more fundamental: the ability to breathe.

NEW DELHI – A friend of mine, a diplomat returning home after less than three years’ service in India, was asked at his exit medical examination how many packs a day he smoked. When he protested that he was a staunch non-smoker, the doctor commented that X-rays of his lungs showed otherwise. But my friend had never lit up. All he had done was breathe Delhi’s air, three smoggy winters in a row.

Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images

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