Reports of India's transnational repression and state-sponsored terrorism under Modi have sparked intense debate and scrutiny

Transnational Repression: India under Scrutiny

Shadows are lengthening across India. Dissidents were silenced abroad. Journalists hounded at home. The reports of transnational repression and state-sponsored terrorism under the leadership of Narendra Modi have sparked intense debate and scrutiny demanding a closer examination of India’s actions on the global stage. The accusations, detailed in various international media outlets and reports from rights organizations, paint a disturbing picture of India’s actions beyond its borders.

Is this a one-off blip, or a sign of a chilling new normal?

Jotting down a few facts, here emerges an interesting question: Are these isolated incidents, or a disturbing pattern? Is India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) merely a rogue agency on the world stage, or has a more insidious rot permeated the very heart of the state?

The latest from the Washington Post is among the many reports that have surfaced recently, exposing a darker side of Modi’s India.

Moreover, the Human Rights organization Freedom House recently published a study, categorizing India among “backsliding democracies” engaging in “transnational repression.” This term refers to governments employing violence against journalists and dissidents, even beyond their own borders.

Adding to the concerns, following revelations by The Guardian report, India’s defense minister openly stated, “We will enter their homes and kill them there!” This admission suggests Indian government involvement in extrajudicial killings in Pakistan. Notably, India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) is reported to have executed approximately 20 similar killings in Pakistan since 2020.

From the arrest of Kulbhushan Jadhav from Balochistan in Pakistan to the assassination plots in North America, the series of interconnected events suggest a troubling pattern of behavior by elements within India’s intelligence agencies. Reports of Indian nationals being expelled from countries like Qatar, Germany, and Australia on charges of espionage add weight to concerns about New Delhi’s activities abroad.

Besides, reports of India’s alleged involvement in espionage, assassination plots, and other covert activities abroad, as detailed by various international media outlets and rights organizations, raise significant concerns about New Delhi’s respect for international norms and the sovereignty of other nations.

Mike Burgess, Australian intelligence Chief, comments on WaPo’s story, revealing India’s Modi government ran a ‘nest of spies’ in Australia, thwarted by Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).

In 2021, Indian spies were expelled for attempting to steal secrets on defense projects, airport security, and Australia’s trade relationships. India’s foreign intelligence service, specifically the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), was responsible for this “nest of spies.”

Mike Burgess, Australian intelligence Chief, revealed that India's Modi government ran a 'nest of spies' in Australia, thwarted by ASIO [Image: The Australian]
Mike Burgess, Australian intelligence Chief, revealed that India’s Modi government ran a ‘nest of spies’ in Australia, thwarted by ASIO [Image: The Australian]

Multiple Indian officials were subsequently removed from Australia by the Morrison government. The spy network was accused of closely monitoring the Indian diaspora living in Australia. They were trying to develop close relationships with both current and former politicians. A foreign embassy and a state police service were among their targets.

Notably, the spies successfully cultivated and recruited an Australian government security clearance holder. This individual had access to sensitive details of defense technology.

This incident prompted a reevaluation of security protocols and procedures. The Australian government engaged in diplomatic communication with India. While the specific details of these discussions remain confidential, concerns were likely raised regarding the breach of trust and the need for cooperation in preventing future incidents. This underscores the gravity of the situation. Questions naturally arise about the motivations behind such covert activities and the potential implications for diplomatic relations between India and its foreign counterparts.

Furthermore, the alleged involvement of India’s foreign intelligence service, specifically the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), in monitoring the Indian diaspora abroad and cultivating relationships with politicians raises troubling questions about the misuse of state resources for political ends. How far-reaching is the influence of these intelligence operations, and to what extent do they compromise the rights and freedoms of individuals within and outside India’s borders?

Also Read: India’s Dream Run Hits a Speed Bump?

These revelations come amid growing global concerns over the actions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in violation of international norms and territorial sovereignty of foreign countries.

Recent events include the assassination of Khalistani dissident Hardeep Nijjar in Canada, attempted murder in the United States, and killings of Kashmiris activists in Pakistan which have raised alarm among Western allies questioning the highhandedness of the Indian government.

The implications of these allegations extend beyond diplomatic relations, touching on fundamental issues of democracy and human rights. Critics argue that India’s historical legacy of authoritarian tactics, combined with the apparent erosion of democratic norms under Modi’s leadership, necessitates a thorough examination of the government’s approach to dissent and separatism.

Are extrajudicial killings and espionage becoming accepted tools of statecraft in India, and if so, what does this mean for the country’s democratic future?

Despite these allegations, India’s government has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, dismissing accusations as part of a broader conspiracy to tarnish its image. However, the mounting evidence and international condemnation suggest a need for closer scrutiny of India’s actions on the global stage.

Also Read: India’s RAW: Rogue Agents or Rogue Agency?

Especially, the reports of transnational repression and state-sponsored terrorism raise broader questions about accountability and transparency within India’s intelligence agencies. How can the government ensure that these agencies operate within the bounds of international law and respect the sovereignty of other nations? Is there a need for greater oversight and accountability mechanisms to prevent the misuse of state power for nefarious purposes?

Furthermore, it raises the critical question: are these actions indicative of a rogue agency or suggestive of a broader issue within the Indian state apparatus – Is it a rogue agency or a rogue state?

As the global community grapples with these questions, it becomes increasingly clear that there is a pressing need for an independent and impartial investigation into the alleged involvement of rogue elements within India’s intelligence agency. Only through such measures can the truth be uncovered, and steps be taken to address the root causes of transnational repression and state-sponsored terrorism.

The stakes are high, not just for India but for the entire international community, as we strive to uphold principles of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in an increasingly interconnected world.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of the South Asia Times.

Haleema Khalid | Chief Editor and Research Lead at South Asia Times (SAT)

Haleema Khalid is an Editor and Research Lead at South Asia Times. She holds a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics and a Bachelor's in Social Work. Her research interests include exploring language's impact on society and culture.

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