External affairs minister S Jaishankar slammed billionaire investor George Soros over his controversial remarks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and India’s democracy
External affairs minister S Jaishankar on Saturday accused billionaire investor George Soros of being “old, rich, opinionated and dangerous” over his controversial remarks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and India’s democracy and called for a global debate on democratic norms.
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Thursday, the 92-year-old Hungarian-American financier had criticised Modi by saying India is a democracy but its leader “is no democrat”. Soros also said he expected the collapse of the stock of Adani Group to lead to a “democratic revival in India”.
Jaishankar told the Raisina@Sydney conference in Sydney that Soro’s comments reflected a “Euro-Atlantic view” that is out of sync with contemporary realities. “I could take a view that the individual in question, Mr Soros, is an old, rich, opinionated person sitting in New York who still thinks that his views should determine how the entire world works,” he said in response to a question.
“But he is old, rich opinionated and dangerous because what happens is when such people, such views and such organisations – they actually invest resources in shaping narratives,” Jaishankar said, adding globalisation had led to shaping of narratives and foundations using funds to “go about their agenda”.
Soros, Jaishankar said, has strong political preferences and thinks it doesn’t matter that the voters of a country of 1.4 billion people should decide how their nation should be run. He also questioned the labelling of India as a flawed democracy by pointing to the unprecedented turnout in elections, decisive electoral outcomes and electoral processes that are not questioned. “It worries us. We are a country that went through colonialism, we know the dangers of what happens when there’s outside interference,” he said.
In his speech at the conference, Jaishankar emphasised the need for a fairer decentralised model of globalisation and a conversation on freedom and democracy. This debate should focus on issues such as “whose democracy, whose values, whose definition, whose norms”, he added.
He also highlighting the uncertainty and unpredictability caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ukraine crisis and larger and more catastrophic climate events. At a time when more than 70 countries are engaging the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for stabilising their national finances, derisking the global economy is an urgent collective task, he said. He said the contemporary world is defined by globalisation, rebalancing and an emerging multipolarity. Jaishankar also spoke of the need to ensure trust and transparency in the digital domain.
Earlier, Jaishankar spoke at the Raisina@Sydney Business Breakfast and referred to the need for like-minded countries to work together to derisk the global economy and to build relationships that serve as stabilisers for the economy. The India-Australia comprehensive strategic partnership sets the framework and the Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) will turbocharge the relationship, he said.
The state of the world creates a “compelling case” for India and Australia to do more together in a world in transition, and resilient supply chains, flow of skills and talent, stronger connectivity and collaborative climate action will lead to great dividends, he added.
Jaishankar also held talks with his Australian counterpart Penny Wong on the Indo-Pacific, progress in the Quad, G20 developments and developments across the region. “Noted the forward movement on our bilateral agenda. Emphasised the need for vigilance against radical activities targeting Indian community,” he tweeted after the meeting.
He met Australian minister for climate change and energy Chris Bowen and discussed climate financing, securing renewable energy technology and supply chains. Jaishankar also met Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and conveyed the personal greetings of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Albanese tweeted that he and Jaishankar discussed the strategic partnership, economic opportunities and people-to-people ties ahead of his visit to India in March.