tharoor175_Drew AngererGetty Images_modi Drew Angerer/Getty Images

India’s Thin-Skinned Leaders

From the BBC to an Israeli filmmaker to the World Health Organization, foreign critics of anything Indian are now likely to be met with an all-out assault by Narendra Modi’s government. This is not how the leaders of a mature democracy should act.

NEW DELHI – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has long been overly sensitive to world opinion, partly because Modi himself craves outside approval. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party likes to claim that India receives more international accolades now that Modi is in charge than it did under his predecessors. But in three recent instances, the attention was less than flattering – and the BJP government responded like prickly adolescents.

The most recent incident began when the BBC aired a documentary called “India: The Modi Question,” which explored the prime minister’s culpability for the anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002, when over a thousand people were killed. The government’s response has shown it at its most belligerent, as well as its most defensive.

Anxious to shield Modi from the damning charges, government ministers and officials attempted to discredit the BBC, suggesting that the documentary was a politically motivated attempt to tarnish India’s image just when it had assumed the G20’s rotating presidency. The spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs, Arindam Bagchi, decried the film as a “propaganda piece designed to push a particular discredited narrative.”

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