Union minister of external affairs, S Jaishankar on Sunday called the World Press Freedom Index “mind games” as he dismissed the idea of restrictions to freedom of press in India. During an interaction on the Foreign Policy of the Modi government on Sunday, Jaishankar said that India has the most uncontrollable press, in reply to a question about the country’s low ranking on the index.
Jaishankar said, “I was amazed at our number. I thought we had the most uncontrollable press, and somebody is getting something fundamentally wrong.”
He compared India’s rank with Afghanistan and said, “Afghanistan was freer than us. Can you imagine? Look, these are all I mean, I see the democracy index, freedom index, religious freedom index, and press freedom index.”
Jaishankar termed the press index as “mind games” and said that these are the ways of playing the mind games which are like lowering the rank of the country whom you don’t like while others do not.
This comes days after Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) released the World Press Freedom Index 2023 on World Press Freedom Day on May 3 where India was ranked at 161, 11 spots down from last year’s standing. On the other hand, Afghanistan stood at 152 and Pakistan at 150 as China dropped to the second-lowest spot at 179. Last year, India had ranked 150 on the press freedom index.
S Jaishankar also took a jibe at Congress leader Rahul Gandhi during the session saying that he was taking classes in China from the Chinese ambassador. He said, “I would have offered to take classes on China from Rahul Gandhi but I discovered he was taking classes on China from the Chinese ambassador,” in response to the criticism from the Congress leader of Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government’s handling of relations with China.
Jaishankar referred to Rahul Gandhi’s meeting with the Chinese ambassador to India during the Doklam crisis. He attacked the government, suggesting that new territory had been lost to China's salami slicing.
"I know everything in politics is political. I accept that. But I think on certain issues, we have a collective responsibility to at least behave in a way that we do not weaken our (India's) collective position abroad to do what we have seen in the last three years in China," Jaishankar said, adding, "often very misleading narratives are put in."
Meanwhile, Jaishankar further hit out at misleading narratives saying, “We had, for example...a bridge which the Chinese were building on Pangong Tso. Now, the reality was that the particular area first Chinese came in 1959, and then they occupied it in 1962. But that's not the way it was put across.”
“This happened in the case of some of the so-called model villages as well, that they were built on areas which we lost in 62 or before 62. Now, I don't believe you will very rarely hear me say 1962, that shouldn't have happened, or you are wrong, or you are responsible. What has happened has happened. It's our collective, I would say failure or responsibility,” said Jaishankar.
“I do not necessarily attribute political colouring to it. I would like to see is actually a serious China conversation. I'm prepared to accept that there are different viewpoints on that, but if you reduce it to kind of slanging match, what can I say after that?,” Jaishankar further asked.