By pulling out of UNHRC, the US is not going to achieve anything significant. But by doing so, Trump has exposed the global version of our domestic “tukde-tukde” gang.
It is one of those ironies of life that it took one of the most illiberal presidents of America to call out one of the biggest hypocrisies of our time – a hugely selective human rights watchdog called the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). By pulling out of the council yesterday (20 June), the Trump administration has sent out a signal that it is not here to pander to the political predilections of countries that have a poor record on human rights themselves. Trump will not allow gross sinners to point out the lesser sins of others, especially if they happen to be his allies.
Though nothing significant will come out of this, it is a form of silent vindication for the Indian Right, for what Trump has essentially done is expose the global version of our domestic “tukde-tukde” gang, which would like both India and Israel dismembered. The forces supporting the two are the same: the global Left and Islamists of various hues, among others. In India we have an additional enemy in the form of the global religious conversion forces. As Rajiv Malhotra told Swarajya some time back in an interview, the global Left, Islamists and the church have made common cause in India even though they are fighting against one another in their own turf.
The US decision, announced by Indian-origin US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, was not without its own share of hypocrisies. For example, Haley lambasted the council for not calling out “massive abuses in Venezuela and Iran” and for welcoming “the Democratic Republic of Congo as a new member,” but fails to mention the Trump administration’s own backing for Saudi Arabia and several other Islamist countries that are not known for their soft approaches to human rights. She added: “For too long, the Human Rights Council has been a protector of human rights abusers, and a cesspool of political bias.”
That it is, but surely the US cannot escape the same criticism for its own human rights abuses, where it has forcibly separated children of illegal immigrants from their parents, a policy that it is only now reversing after a massive global outcry.
While no one can predict the future policies of a wayward Trump administration on human rights – it can jump either way, based on perceptions of its own geopolitical interests – there is little doubt that the UNHRC’s biased approach to human rights violations by Israel needed pointing out. Haley made no bones about it when she talked about the council’s “disproportionate focus and unending hostility toward Israel.” She added, for good measure: “human rights abusers continue to serve on, and be elected to, the council. The world's most inhumane regimes continue to escape its scrutiny, and the council continues politicising scapegoating of countries with positive human rights records in an attempt to distract from the abusers in its ranks.”
Pompeo added to this narrative of bias by emphasising that “the Human Rights Council is a poor defender of human rights. Worse than that, the Human Rights Council has become an exercise in shameless hypocrisy with many of the world's worst human rights abuses going ignored and some of the world's most serious offenders sitting on the council itself.”
In India, we have seen the same biases operating in the context of the “secular-liberal” crowd and the tukde-tukde gang, now dubbed 'Urban Naxals’ by film-maker Vivek Agnihotri, where human rights abuses are pointed out only if the victim is from a particular community, but almost never if there are victims from the other side.
The Haley-Pompeo statements, while correct in pointing out the orchestrated condemnation of Israel (the only democratic country to the west of India in Asia), would have had more credibility if it had pointed out a few more instances of one-sided condemnations of rights violations by countries.
For example, it is obvious that India’s record on human rights in Jammu & Kashmir is much better than that of Pakistan, where Islamism rules and the state targets not only non-Muslims, but even Muslims with a non-Salafist background, including Shias, Ahmaddiya and Bahais. The Pakistani Deep State sends killers and jihadi elements to Islamise Kashmir and has already half succeeded in its aims by ethnically cleansing the valley of Pandits. And yet, it is India that is being called to account for rights violations by the UN, with its latest report claiming that the Indian security forces responded to the “demonstrations that started in 2016” with “excessive force that led to unlawful killings and a very high number of injuries.”
Violent attacks against enforcers of the law, from stone-pelting to grenade attacks, are mere “demonstrations” for the UN, when the toll in terms of injuries to security personnel is also huge. A Union Home Ministry report puts the number of terrorist strikes in 2017 in J&K at 342, which resulted in 80 deaths among security forces, and 40 among civilians. Some of the civilian deaths were probably related to their own decision to thwart the security forces and become covert combatants themselves.
India, however, need not follow Trump in exiting the UNHRC for the simple reason that Trump is temperamental and can switch his views instantly. Our best interests are served by staying in and underlining the hypocrisies of the council. We are not yet big enough to take our own road like the US and not worry about the consequences.