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Can India remain Democracy’s poster child?

By Teck Lim - posted Tuesday, 16 May 2023

The reality is emerging that India's democracy is not only deeply flawed, it has regressed into what the V-Dem Institute calls "one of the worst autocratisers in the last 10 years".

Now that India's honeymoon with the West seems to be over, perhaps this is the time for the two nations of China and India to make peace on their boundary dispute and get their act together to take on the "self-appointed custodians of the world.

India is a top tier security partner for Australia and defence and security cooperation with India will be vital to security, prosperity and stability in the Indo-Pacific. – Australian Government, DPMC, 14 March 2023

"India – Mother of all democracies" according to Prime Minister Modi in his address to the United Nations General Assembly in September 2021.

In a more recent address on the occasion of the unveiling of the logo, theme and website of India's G20 Presidency, Modi elaborated on India's role in the world.


It is our responsibility to introduce the world to India's thinking and strength, to India's culture and social power. It is our responsibility to enhance the knowledge of the world with the intellectualism of our thousands of years old culture and the modernity contained in it. The way we have lived the idea of 'Jai-Jagat' for centuries and millennia, today we have to bring it alive and present it to the modern world.

India and Modi have many admirers, especially among Australian and Western political leaders, policy analysts and media, even if they may be sceptical about the "thousands of years old" intellectualism of Indian culture and "the modernity contained in it".

"Biggest democracy in the world"; "exceptional and exemplary model of development"; the West's "preferred economic and strategic partner based on shared principles such as the rule of law"; "a country 'driven by norms, good governance, …openness, transparency and equality' – these and more accolades have been showered on the country.

Why India is the West's Democracy Role Model

Some of those touting India as the role model for democracy have done this not because they are fans of Indian style democracy or because they believe in the pro-India platitudes regularly trotted out in the "free world" media.

They have taken to marketing India to counter the rise of China and what they regard as the challenge by a communist system denounced for its 'limited' rights for its citizens but with the greatest poverty alleviation and development record in modern history which provides a different role model for developing nations.


This is especially repugnant to the West since China's rise and development are also seen as upsetting the current western dominated international economic and political order.

The contrary standards in dealing with China and India is perhaps best seen in the West's selective silence on developments in Kashmir whilst a focus on human rights violations and support for Uyghur dissidents continues unabated.

More recently, bromides on India's unique role as a model of democracy have been sprouted particularly on occasions such as when India joined the Quad, and during other similar initiatives aimed at containing China.

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About the Author

Lim Teck Ghee, a former graduate of the Australian National University, is a political analyst in Malaysia. He has a regular column called, ‘Another Take’ in The Sun, one of the nation’s print media.

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