India recently was the scene of a unique yet terrifying crime. The country’s premier anti-terror agency arrested two local individuals after they were found in possession of more than seven kilogrammes of natural uranium. In a particularly bone-chilling detail, the duo identified as 27-year-old Jigar Jayesh Pandya and 31-year-old Abu Tahir Afzal Choudhary were attempting to peddle the radioactive metal online.
Consider, for a moment, if this development took place not in an India the global community is infatuated with but in neighbouring Pakistan. The likely fallout is easy to imagine. There would be furore around our country’s ‘nuclear irresponsibility’. The world would jump to conclude this was ‘inherent’. Renewed calls to dispossess Pakistan of its nuclear assets would immediately and inevitably follow. For that matter, imagine such an incident took place in any other Muslim nation. Or, although one of the individuals involved does appear to be Muslim, imagine if both were. The knee-jerk reaction would be to frame it as a potential terrorist plot.
But since it took place in India, which the world only views as a ‘vibrant, pluralistic democracy’, the global reaction is as muted and restrained as it is for the country’s human rights failings. Alarming it may be, but for the world, the incident is viewed as an isolated one. It likely is just that, but switch scenarios to the ones mentioned above and one cannot help but feel that the reaction would be harsher.
The global arena is mired in double standards. Certain perceptions are unquestionably reserved for certain nations and different ones are reserved for others. Some of them may rest partly on a nation’s historical track record, but many betray undertones of racism and prejudice. This hypocrisy is one big factor in why it is difficult to develop global consensus on nuclear disarmament — or any other global challenge, really. The nuclear question aside, take India’s treatment of Kashmiris or Israel’s actions towards Palestinians. Change the nations and regimes involved to the global ‘have-nots’ and the furious condemnations would pile up.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 16th, 2021.