Campaign Highlights Modi Government’s Danger to Investors; Coincides with Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar’s Visit to Washington
May 25, 2021 – Today, the website Devas Facts, a campaign established by American-owned and operated Devas Multimedia and its shareholders, announced a paid media campaign to draw attention to the Modi regime’s record of violating human rights, trampling free speech, censorship of social media, and disregard for international treaties and investor rights.
The advert will run in Politico, and reads:
Unsafe for Investors
PM Narendra Modi’s authoritarian rule is isolating India through its disregard for human rights, its attacks on journalists, its censorship of social media and its disregard for international agreements.
While India’s economy falters, Modi uses his security services to harass U.S. investors like Devas Multimedia, attack iconic American companies like Amazon, and weaponize India’s judiciary to seize American companies.
Click here to read the advert.
Modi’s Record: The Facts
Since coming to power in 2014, PM Modi has presided over the worst economy in 42 years before the pandemic hit and now faces negative growth, but he has sustained his political standing through a mixture of Hindu nationalism, stirring anti-Muslim hatred, and autocratic attacks on investors, foreign companies, press freedoms and human rights. The incompetent response to Covid-19 has highlighted the dangers of an unchecked authoritarian government:
- Autocratic Attacks on Human Rights: Modi’s political career has been fueled by Hindu nationalism and attacks on Indian Muslims and other religious minorities, showing that division and scapegoating are central to his vision of governing. Because of his discriminatory policies, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has called on the U.S. State Department to list India as a “Country of Particular Concern” resulting from the Modi government’s continued abuses against Indian Muslims. Freedom House also downgraded India to the status of “partly free” for the first time since 1997, citing PM Modi’s authoritarianism, ultra-nationalism, and corruption. India’s Supreme Court noted that random Hindu attacks against Muslims have become so common under PM Modi, that it could become the “new normal” across the country if left unchecked. Modi’s open support for violence against Muslims became so abhorrent, that the Administration of George W. Bush refused to grant him a visa to visit the United States in 2005. Modi’s India is unsafe for its own people.
- Attacks on Press Freedoms: India is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, and it has gotten steadily worse under Modi due to coordinated threats of violence against reporters who cross the regime. Under Modi, press freedoms have also declined according to Reporters Without Borders, which ranks India as one of the most repressive and dangerous places on the planet for reporters who challenge the BJP’s official narrative. According to their 2021 World Press Freedom Index, India ranked 142 out of 180 countries surveyed, measuring abuse and acts of violence or repression against journalists. In terms of press freedoms, India ranked lower than Myanmar (140) and Zimbabwe (130). Many have been jailed for “sedition” for reporting on the violent repression and killing of protesters, or on religious riots enflamed by Modi’s Hindu nationalist supporters. These actions culminated in the recent order that Twitter block all comments on its social media platform in India, which are critical of the Modi government’s failed response to the Covid pandemic. The Modi government has ordered Twitter and Facebook employees working in India, to censor approximately 100 social media posts critical of the Modi Government’s Covid-19 response. One of the posts that Modi censored came from Pawan Khera, a spokesperson for the Indian National Congress, an opposition political party, signaling that PM Modi is eager to wield the power of the State machinery to silence his political opponents. As Apar Gupta, executive director of New Delhi-based Internet Freedom Foundation, a digital-rights organization noted in the Wall Street Journal, “Our main concern is the secrecy in the censorship … Any legal order for directing blocking of websites should contain reasoning and be made public. Neither of these steps are being carried out right now.” Modi’s India is unsafe for journalists.
- Kangaroo Courts: The Indian judicial system provides little comfort or redress for investors that have had their assets seized, contracts unlawfully terminated and employees harassed by state intelligence. Freedom House’s latest Freedom in the World Report 2021 is scathing, ““The judiciary is formally independent of the political branches of government […] However, lower levels of the judiciary suffer from corruption, and the courts have shown signs of increasing politicization… Also in 2020, the president appointed a recently retired chief justice to the upper house of Parliament, a rare move that critics viewed as a threat to the constitutional separation of powers. Freedom House downgraded India’s ranking on Rule of Law, with its judiciary ranked as equivalent to Madagascar and Togo. The Heritage Foundation ranked India’s Judicial Effectiveness as “repressed” and Government Integrity as “mostly unfree” in their 2021 Index of Economic Freedom report. Modi’s India is unsafe for the rule of law.
- Corruption and Soviet-style Police Tactics: India is among the most corrupt nations in the world, with the highest levels of bribery and influence peddling in Asia. According to a 2019 Corruption Survey Index by Transparency International, nearly half of all Indians surveyed reported that the government is not doing enough to curb corruption. Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer Asia 2020 report confirms that “Bribery in public services continues to plague India. Slow and complicated bureaucratic process, unnecessary red tape and unclear regulatory frameworks force citizens to seek out alternate solutions to access basic services through networks of familiarity and petty corruption.” This report also noted that 89% of Indians surveyed said that corruption is a “big problem,” and more than half said that corruption had increased recently. The 2020 Country Report on Human Rights Practices by the U.S. State Department found that India’s judiciary was “plagued by delays, capacity challenges, and corruption.” When Indians attempt to speak out against judiciary corruption under PM Modi, they are silenced, as the Department of State’s Country Report notes: “On August 14, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court convicted prominent lawyer Prashant Bhushan for criminal contempt of court for two tweets that criticized the chief justice and the role played by the Supreme Court in the past six years.” In response to the State Department report, Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar’s scoffed at the U.S.’s assessment, and said that India will not tolerate moral lectures from a “set of self-appointed custodians of the world.” Worse yet, the Modi government has made it easier to hide its own corruption through changing sunshine laws while there have been increased attacks against and killings of whistleblowers denouncing official corruption. Modi’s India is unsafe from corruption.
- Breaking International Agreements: Under Modi, India is becoming one of the most unsafe countries in the world for investment or foreign participation, and it is routinely violating international agreements and treaties, ignoring arbitration rulings and attacking or harassing individuals or companies that try to assert their rights. Under Modi, the Indian government has also cancelled over 50 Bilateral Investment Treaties (BIT) – and has ignored its obligations under countless others. This is textbook behavior of a scofflaw regime, not a free democracy. This anti-investor approach has a real-world impact: before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Indian economy had sunk to its lowest ebb in over 40 years. Under Prime Minister Modi, expropriations of private property by the Indian government have increased and India has ripped up over 50 bilateral investment treaties. This has driven up the expense and risk of doing business in the country. The World Bank ranked India 163 out of 190 economies in terms of contract enforcement mechanisms in its 2020 Ease of Doing Business report. In the 2021 Index of Economic Freedom report, the Heritage Foundation ranked Labor Freedom, Investment Freedom, and Financial Freedom in India as “repressed” assigning a score of 41.3, 40, and 40 (0-100) for each category respectively. Moody’s and Fitch lowered their issuer default rating from ‘stable’ to ‘negative’ for India in June of 2020, citing the government’s inability to adopt policies to mitigate the risks of a long period of low growth. In addition, the World Bank Group also noted that the ratio of gross non-performing loans to assets of commercial banks in India could be as high as 15%. Further, Pew notes that the Covid-19 pandemic forced an additional 75 million Indians into poverty. Modi’s India is unsafe for business.