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Is US interfering in India’s 2024 Lok Sabha Elections?

Navigating Diplomatic Intricacies and Electoral Dynamics

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18 Apr '24
9 min read


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Introduction:

The US Embassy in India recently extended an invitation to Kashmiri activists for an Iftar gathering in New Delhi. Along with this gesture, the embassy issued a statement in support of Arvind Kejriwal, the Delhi Chief Minister who was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in a Liquor Scam, and supported Congress when its bank accounts were partially frozen by the tax department. 

The embassy also spoke out against India's newly implemented Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which expedites citizenship to certain minorities in neighboring countries. This series of actions by the US Embassy has sparked a range of discussions and raised significant questions about international diplomacy and the delicate balance of sovereignty. 

The dance of diplomacy has become a topic of intense debate, with many wondering about the implications of these gestures for India's internal affairs and the broader geopolitical landscape. The delicate balance of sovereignty, which is crucial to maintaining stability and order in the international system, has been called into question, as the US Embassy's actions have been seen as an interference in India's domestic politics.

This seemingly simple act, imbued with layers of symbolism and significance, has reignited fervent debates surrounding the depth of US entanglement in India's internal affairs. Especially as the nation approaches the pivotal juncture of its 2024 elections. 

This event stands out as the embassy's initial outreach to Kashmiris following the abrogation of Article 370, a move that reshaped the region's political landscape. 

The gathering serves as a significant platform for the US embassy to engage with dissidents, Kashmiri activists, and local leaders.

Kashmiri activists at the Iftar party in New Delhi. Source: The Tribune India

The US Consulate's hosting of an Iftar party is not an isolated incident, but rather a continuation of a long-standing tradition of diplomatic engagements aimed at allegedly fostering dialogue and promoting mutual understanding. 

In 2012 and 2013, for instance, similar events were organized with the alleged noble intention of promoting interfaith relations and celebrating the rich tapestry of diversity that defines India's cultural fabric. 

Although, the Iftar 'diplomacy' in Gujarat by the American Consulate assumes significance against the backdrop of the US's refusal to grant a visa to then Chief Minister Narendra Modi. 

However, when we juxtapose these seemingly innocuous diplomatic gestures with hypothetical scenarios, such as inviting those involved in the storming of the Capitol for a Thanksgiving dinner, the sensitivity and complexity of such engagements become glaringly apparent. 

This comparison underscores the delicate balance of power dynamics in international relations and the importance of maintaining diplomatic propriety and respect for sovereignty.

Capitol Rioters From The January 6 Attack 2021. Source: The Independent

Implications of Diplomatic Engagements:

While the surface narrative portrays an image of inclusivity and a commitment to dialogue, beneath this facade lies a complex web of intentions and implications that beckon further exploration. 

Is this a genuine attempt to foster relationships and understand the plight of Kashmiris, or does it signify a more calculated move aimed at influencing India's electoral landscape and shaping regional narratives?

To fully grasp the significance of the current scenario, it is crucial to delve into the historical context of US involvement in Indian affairs, the realms of diplomacy, geopolitics, and power dynamics, where the interplay of interests and agendas often dictates the course of international relations and shapes the contours of global discourse.

Historical Context Of International Interventionism:

The asymmetry of power dynamics in international relations cannot be ignored, and the implications of such diplomatic overtures raises pertinent questions about the intentions behind such engagements.

Colonel Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders after capturing San Juan Hill during the Spanish–American War. Source: Wikipedia 

The United States, with its rich history of interventionism spanning nearly 400 military interventions since its inception, has often found itself entangled in the affairs of other nations. 

Since the 19th century, the United States government has participated and interfered, both overtly and covertly, in the replacement of many foreign governments. In the latter half of the 19th century, the U.S. government initiated actions for regime change mainly in Latin America and the southwest Pacific, including the Spanish–American and Philippine–American wars. 

At the onset of the 20th century, the United States shaped or installed governments in many countries around the world, including neighbours Hawaii, Panama, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic.

During World War II, the United States helped overthrow many Nazi German or Imperial Japanese puppet regimes. Examples include regimes in the Philippines, Korea, East China, and parts of Europe. United States forces, together with the Soviet Union, were also instrumental in removing Adolf Hitler from power in Germany and Benito Mussolini in Italy.

According to one study, the U.S. performed at least 81 overt and covert known interventions in foreign elections during the period 1946–2000.

Advocating schools of thought such as interventionism, advocating for military and political involvement in foreign countries. It has been involved in numerous foreign interventions, with notable instances like Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti and military intervention in Bosnia and Herzegovina under President Bill Clinton

Between 1776 and 2023, with over half occurring since 1950 and more than 25% in the post-Cold War period. These interventions have aimed at various objectives such as economic opportunities, social protection, regime change, and enforcing international law. 

US Interference in Foreign Elections:

The practice of interfering in foreign elections, whether overtly or covertly, is not new

The United States has a history of intervening in foreign elections, with the largest number of interventions between 1946 and 2000, according to Dov H. Levin's 2020 book "Meddling in the Ballot Box: The Causes and Effects of Partisan Electoral Interventions." Among 938 competitive national-level executive elections between this period, the United States intervened in 81 foreign elections, while the Soviet Union or Russia intervened in 36 foreign elections. 

U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger shakes hands with Chilean Foreign Minister Ismale Huerta Diaz during break in the Latin Foreign Ministers Conference in Mexico City, Feb. 22, 1974. Source: The Washington Post

The U.S. and Russia (including the Soviet Union) thus intervened in 117 of 938 competitive elections during this period, with the majority of those interventions being through covert, rather than overt, actions. 

While ironically, the US itself continues to consistently condemn any foreign involvement in its own electoral seasons. 

The article by Jack Goldsmith on Project Syndicate discusses the issue of whether the United States still interferes in foreign elections. Goldsmith highlights the outrage over foreign interference in the 2016 US election and the efforts to counter this advantage. 

He emphasizes the need for the US to publicly denounce and end the practice of interfering in foreign elections to establish norms that can constrain its rivals. 

Goldsmith points out that the US cannot effectively curb interference by other countries until it stops engaging in such practices itself. 

The article also mentions warnings from US officials about ongoing and potential electoral influence efforts by countries like Russia, China, and Iran. 

CIA Director Bill Burns testifying that he believes Vladimir Putin is "losing the information war" in Ukraine, undermining the Russian leader's ability to rally support at home and abroad for his war of aggression. Source: Axios

Goldsmith references Dov Levin's research, which reveals that the US and Russia have historically been the leading proponents of foreign electoral interventions, with the US accounting for a significant number of these interventions between 1946 and 2000.

The repercussions of such interventions extend beyond electoral results. They can erode trust in democratic processes, undermine the sovereignty of nations, and sow seeds of discord and instability.

Why would the US interfere in Indian elections?

The current Indian government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has not aligned with the United States in its stance against Russia in the Russia-Ukraine War. This divergence in foreign policy positions has likely contributed to the US's interest in influencing Indian elections. 

India's growing popularity and active role in the global landscape have also caught the attention of the US, which may see an opportunity to weaken India by interfering in its elections. The import of cheap Russian oil by India, despite US sanctions, has further strained the relationship between the two nations. 

The External Affairs minister's repeated defence of India's policies against the US has also added to the tension. Given the US's history of interfering in elections worldwide, it is not surprising that they would consider interfering in Indian elections and attempt to install a weak Government at the Centre. By installing or gaining control over the Central Government, the US could significantly benefit in the global landscape, potentially weakening India's position. 

Therefore, the US's interference in Indian elections is a real possibility, with significant implications for India's sovereignty and electoral landscape.

India's Electoral Landscape:

In the context of India, where stringent regulations such as the People Representation Act and the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act aim to safeguard against external interference in electoral processes, loopholes and ambiguities exist, raising concerns about transparency and accountability. The recent amendments to electoral laws, particularly regarding foreign contributions and retrospective scrutiny, have sparked debates about their implications for India's democratic fabric. 

India's 2024 general election - to be held over six weeks between 19 April and 1 June - will be the biggest the world has ever seen. Source: BBC

The 2024 Indian elections, looming on the horizon, serve as a litmus test for the resilience of democracy in the face of external pressures and internal challenges.

In Conclusion:

The ramifications touch upon fundamental principles of democracy, sovereignty, and international norms. Transparency, accountability, and adherence to established protocols are essential to preserve the integrity of electoral processes and safeguard the autonomy of nations. As India navigates the turbulent waters of electoral politics, we must remain vigilant against external influences and uphold the sanctity of its democratic institutions. As a responsible voter, consider the best interest of our nation when casting your vote. Avoid being swayed by last minute influencers or media outlets that may attempt to manipulate your decision or raise doubts about your choice of candidate or Political Party.

Category : World


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Written by Saneki Basundhara

Writer, Assistant Director