The Economist, long considered the arbiter of liberal opinion in the English-reading world, upset supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with its ‘Intolerant India‘ cover of 23 January. But soon after the 2014 Lok Sabha election that first brought Modi to national power, the same magazine’s cover had featured a triumphant Modi with the caption ‘Narendra Modi – India’s Strongman’, arguing that his “amazing victory gives India its best chance ever of prosperity”.
The news magazine is not the only one that was once upbeat about the prospects of India under its current leadership and has now turned pessimistic. 2019 has been bad for India’s global image and Indians must seriously examine what has changed in the last twelve or thirteen months. India’s current leaders seem to have disappointed both western liberals and conservatives simultaneously.
Just last year, in January-February 2019, India seemed poised to launch itself on the world stage as China’s potential rival. PM Modi and his ministers were then talking about punishing and isolating Pakistan for its unabated support for insurgency and terrorism across the border. Even the spectre of nuclear conflict, raised from Islamabad, failed to deter most countries from standing with India or acquiescing to its regional pre-eminence.