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U.S. President’s Summit for Democracy: India will be scrutinised


U.S. President Joe Biden kicked off Day One of his Summit for Democracy, calling on countries to make “concrete commitments” to reaffirm their democratic values.


GS-II: International Relations (Important Foreign Policies and Agreements affecting India’s Interests), GS-II: Polity and Constitution (Constitutional Provisions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the U.S. President’s “Summit for Democracy”
  2. Why India’s contribution to the agenda will be scrutinized closely
  3. Challenges for India

About the U.S. President’s “Summit for Democracy”

About the Invites sent out by the U.S.

  • Over 100 countries had been invited, along with civil society actors, members of various parliaments and the private sector for U.S. President Joe Biden’s Summit for Democracy.
  • Even though US does not recognise Taiwan as an independent country, it invited Taiwan. US takes up Taiwan as a model democracy. However, U.S. did not invite China and Russia for this meeting.
  • Turkey, a NATO ally of the United States was not included on the list as the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan was dubbed an “autocrat” by US President.
  • In the Middle East, only Israel and Iraq have been added to the list. Traditional Arab allies of the US namely, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, are all absent.
  • On the African side, Kenya, Congo, South Africa, Nigeria and Niger are invited.

Purpose Of the Summit

  • The main purpose of the summit is to:
    • renew the spirit and shared purpose of the nations of the Free World,
    • bring together the world’s democracies to strengthen our democratic institutions,
    • honestly confront the challenge of nations that are backsliding, and
    • forge a common agenda to address threats to democratic common values.
  • The Summit will prioritise results by galvanising significant new country commitments in three areas:
    • fighting corruption
    • defending against authoritarianism, including election security
    • advancing human rights in their own nations and abroad.
  • It will also issue a Call to Action for the private sector, including technology corporations and social media giants, to make their own commitments, recognising their responsibilities and their overwhelming interest in preserving open, democratic societies and protecting free speech.
  • Leaders will be “encouraged” to announce “specific actions and commitments” to meaningful domestic reforms and international initiatives that advance the summit’s goals.

Why will India’s contribution to the agenda be scrutinized closely?

  • Cultural relativisms: One theme that emerges from these observations is that of cultural relativism — the “Indianness of India’s democracy”— “as India becomes ever more democratic, democracy will become ever more Indian in its sensibilities and texture”.
  • Role of civil society: A second theme is the role of civil society.
  • It has been accused of “defaming” or bringing harm to India, as espoused most recently in statements by the National Security Adviser, who also called them “the new frontier of a fourth-generation war”.
  • Ensuring democratic rights: Another noticeable theme is around the responsibility for ensuring democratic rights.

Challenges for India

  • India has to reconcile the paradox inherent in submitting to international gaze at a global assembly where it is apparently required to make commitments adhering to “western” standards of democracy while claiming there is an Indian model.
  • In March this year, External Affairs Minister Jaishankar dismissed global standards and international metrics of democracy as rubbish.
  • For perspective, this is what China says too.
  • When President Biden brought up Beijing’s human rights record, President Xi Jinping told him there was no “uniform model” of democracy, and that dismissing other “forms of democracy different from one’s own is itself undemocratic.
  • The summit may intensify these differences, particularly because the host has no shining credentials either.
  • If democracy-building was never the US goal in Afghanistan, as Biden declared, why make the unfreezing of Afghan assets overseas conditional to the Taliban turning democratic and inclusive overnight?

-Source: Indian Express, The Hindu

November 2023