Why India Should Boycott Bolsonaro
What are the implications of a Modi-Bolsonaro alliance? Above all - a shared vision of the future, and an impact on India's economic decisions.
Okay, let’s be real. Time’s Up. 2020 isn’t a year when women will be silent and pliant, repressed and coerced into being quiet on matters that concern them. 2020 is the year that saw the rise of OK Boomer, and saw the participation of the youth in political movements like never before. At the World Economic Forum in 2020, we saw the discussion on Climate Change coming to the forefront of international politics, and we are seeing a wave of woke folk.
2020, we hope, will be the year that ushers in greater tolerance and solidarity, less hate and more world wide cooperation.
This is our decade, the decade that can make a difference, and in these times, does it make sense for us to sit back and watch as the ‘Trump of the Tropics’, the President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, is greeted and feted as the Chief Guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations?
We think not; but hey, don’t just take our word for it.
In 2018, John Oliver said of Bolsonaro, “The only nice thing you can say for him is that he has not been implicated in a corruption investigation yet.” He then said, “Unfortunately, that’s literally the only nice thing I can possibly find to say about him, because he is a terrible human being.”
He goes on to explain that Bolsonaro is an “extreme far-right conservative” who has called for “some psychotically strong law enforcement,” and has made homophobic, racist, and sexist comments throughout his political career.
If you’re still not convinced, here’s our case:
To begin with, he has consistently made statements that propagate an extremely problematic world view. This has gone on for decades.
In response to critical comments made by a congresswoman, he told her that he wouldn’t bother to rape her, because she doesn’t even deserve that much. Believe it or not, he then shared a video of it on Twitter, boasting about the incident.
Wait, believe it, because it’s right here:
That’s right, this is the leader of the sixth most populous country in the world.
This isn’t the end of his terrible statements.
He claims women are more privileged than men in the workforce, and so he chooses not to hire them. “Because women get more labor rights than men, meaning they get maternity leave, the employer prefers to hire men … I would not employ [women equally].
In 2011, he said that he would rather have his own son die in a car crash than be gay, and then in 2013, he called himself a “proud homophobe”. Ever since he came into power, the LGBTQ community in Brazil has been under constant threat.
He has said that he’s in favour of torture, of war, and of a dictatorship.
His position on deforestation in the Amazon, and his lackadaisical attitude when the Amazon fires were raging deserve a rant all on their own.
But why would any of this affect India?
Here’s why: Most of us aren’t too familiar with the number of International alliances India is a part of. One of these that is most fundamental to India’s International relations is BRICS - the coalition of India, Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa, the world’s 5 major emerging national economies.
Modi and Bolsonaro have meet twice in 2019, and, according to officials planning Bolsonaro’s visit to India, the two leaders plan to take their partnership ‘to the next level’ by signing a strategic action plan with a Bilateral Investment Treaty.
Confused about what a BIT is? Don't worry - it means that Brazil will now be one of India’s economic allies.
What are the implications of this alliance? Above all - a shared vision of the future, and an impact on India's economic decisions.
“Our bilateral relations are based on a common global vision, shared democratic values, and a commitment to foster economic growth of both countries. Bilateral relations were elevated to a Strategic Partnership in 2006, heralding a new phase in India-Brazil relations,” said the Ministry of External Affairs statement announcing Mr. Bolsonaro’s visit from January 24-27 in Delhi.
‘Shared democratic values?’ ‘A common global vision?’ Is Bolsonaro’s vision really what we want to call our own?
Still too abstract? Let’s make it simpler with an example.
India has been facing a agricultural crisis with farmer suicides and poverty over the past decade. One of the steps taken by the government to combat this is to offer farmers subsidies. One such subsidy was granted to sugarcane farmers. Brazil objected to this, and raised a complaint against India’s subsidies to the World Trade Organisation.
Now, Brazil is the largest producer and exporter of sugar, and claims Indian subsidies are inconsistent with global trade rules. If Modi decides to sign a Trade agreement with Brazil, then it could govern internal economic decisions like agricultural subsidies.
You see how our allies could make a substantial change in the daily lives of Indians? This is just one example. In international relations, alliances are everything. Your allies define not only how you are seen on the world stage, but also how your internal and international policies are shaped.
Kavita Krishnan once said that Modi and Bolsonaro were like kindred spirits. An alliance between them might make sense to some. But that doesn’t make it good.
In his segment on Brazil, before the country elected Bolsonaro, John Oliver had said, “It isn’t too late. Brazil, please, I realise that you are disgusted with your politics at the moment, and you’re not inspired by any of the alternatives, but anything is better than Bolsonaro.”
India needs to realise the same thing - our political associations matter. The leaders we celebrate with matter, the political ideologies we align ourselves with matter. Optics matter. And as we realise this, we need to understand - anything is better than Bolsonaro.
Previous Chief Guests include Nelson Mandela, Queen Elizabeth, John Major, Vladimir Putin, Barack Obama and Shinzo Abe. Optics and alliances aside, it would, above all, be tragic to include Bolsonaro in their ranks.