A recently published advertisement titled ‘Modi’s Magnitsky 11′ in the Wall Street Journal shows 11 officials, which include people such as Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, Supreme Court of India’s Judge V. Ramasubraimanian to name a few. This advertisement demands to implement sanctions on these 11 officials under the Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which will freeze the assets of these officials and block them from entering the United States. This advertisement results from a petition filed to the U.S. Department of State and Treasury. The petition has been filed by a US-based organisation named ‘Frontiers of Freedom’, which claims to be working to protect the rights and freedoms of individuals.
The interesting fact to note here is that one of the key funders of this organisation is Mr. Ramachandran Viswanathan (an American Citizen), Co-founder and CEO of Devas Multimedia Pvt Ltd. India has been looking for this man for questioning and arrest under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in Criminal Matters between U.S. and India. An agreement was signed between Devas Multimedia Pvt Ltd and Antrix on Agreement for the Lease of Space Segment Capacity on ISRO/Antrix S-band spacecraft, which was cancelled by the Indian government, post which Devas’ lawyers have been seizing foreign assets owned by ISRO. Ramachandran Viswanathan has been declared a “fugitive offender”. The E.D. (Enforcement Directorate) has also moved a court application under India’s Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018 to declare him an economic offender.
As the Indian government and agencies have been tightening the noose, Ramachandran Viswanathan has used his clout to tarnish India’s image abroad. In the petition, it has been said that “The actions of autocratic Indian regime led by Prime Minister Modi are an assault on Mr Viswanathan and the rule of law and the rights and freedoms granted to every American.” The statement in the petition clearly shows that the organisation’s motive is to portray India as a state where the law of the land works not as per its constitution but is used to settle scores with the political and business rivals of the current regime.
The text and timing and the people targeted in the petition clearly show four things. Firstly, this petition aims to portray India’s law and order as discriminatory against those who value and fight for personal freedom and liberty. Secondly, its objective is to hurt India’s economy in a big way.
Suppose the finance minister of the world’s fifth largest economy is sanctioned under U.S. law. In that case, that will drive away potential investors from India, who at present see India as a promised land whose GDP growth rate ranges between 6.7 per cent to 7.7 per cent for the financial year 2023-24.
Thirdly, by having the name of a Supreme Court judge, the petitioner’s objective is to show to the world, especially foreign businesses planning to enter India, that the Indian judiciary is no longer independent and is now hand-in-glove with the ruling regime. This will create fear in the minds of foreign companies who see India as a just state where their investment and interest will be protected by law and order. Fourthly, through this advertisement, Frontiers of Freedom wants to put pressure on the Indian government through the U.S. administration so that it can strike a deal to save its pivotal funder, Ramachandran Viswanathan. Lastly, the timing of the advertisement. With the policymakers and media houses of the West putting pressure on India to side with the Western narrative in the Ukraine-Russia conflict and India choosing to follow its strategic autonomy in pursuing its foreign policy has not been received well. This advertisement is another tactic to pressure India to toe the western line.
India is an emerging world power in various geopolitics, economy, defence, and health sectors, which have started to cause headaches for some people across the globe. Institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank viewing India as one of the few bright spots of the world’s economy– which is set to slip into recession, is troubling certain sections of the world who still view India as a third-world country. The current mala fide attack by Western led organisations is nothing new. These western based think tanks and institutes who think of themselves as the custodians of the world’s morals and freedom have been attacking India’s image by lowering her ranking under their indicators. Some examples of this have been lowering India’s rank at 142 under World Press Freedom Index. Another Freedom House report (a US-based non-profit) downgraded India to ‘partly free’ and called it an ‘Electoral Autocracy’.
Propaganda advertisements like these cannot deter India’s growth and progress story. Today, India is a place of hope and is set to become the world’s workshop. The growing investments across sectors and rising GDP growth are a testament to India’s current promising political, economic and law and order situation.