‘Indispensable partner’? India joins Russia in move against democracy NGOs


India placed three U.S. NGOs on a ‘watch list’ as Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the U.S. Congress he wanted closer ties between the two countries.

India’s Home Ministry has put three American donors under the “prior permission category” for allegedly funding non Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) registered NGOs in India, which were allegedly using the money for proselytization and working in the field of climate change, The Hindu reports:

The three donors — Open Society Foundations (OSF), World Movement for Democracy (WMD) and National Endowment for Democracy (NED) — were put under the government’s watch list on the basis of “adverse” intelligence inputs.

Modi noted that India is the world’s largest democracy, committed to “freedom, democracy and equality” and called the United States an “indispensable partner.” But his address at the U.S. Capitol, which he called a “temple of democracy”, coincided with the new moves against the Congressionally-funded NED.

Meanwhile, WMD comprises a global network of activists, practitioners, scholars, policy makers, and funders who come together “to advance democracy”, Huffington Post adds:

According to the organisation’s website, “Participants actively engage in or support struggles to open closed societies, challenge dictatorships, democratize semi-authoritarian systems, consolidate emerging democracies, and reform and invigorate established democracies both old and new.” The NED operates on similar lines, giving grants to individuals and organisations to help with “the growth and strengthening” of democracies across the world.

Earlier last month, the US ambassador to India Richard Verma said that the government’s crackdown on NGOs would have a “chilling effect” on civil society.

“I read with some concern the recent press reports on challenges faced by NGOs operating in India,” Verma told journalists. “Because a vibrant civil society is so important to both of our democratic traditions, I do worry about the potentially chilling effects of these regulatory steps focused on NGOs.”

India’s announcement also coincided with the announcement that five foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been labelled “undesirable” by the Kremlin in the past year, The Moscow Times reports:

Russia’s Prosecutor General Yury Chaika told the State Duma that investigations into the NGOs are continuing with the help of the Foreign Ministry. The investigations seek to establish if the NGOs pose a threat to national security and the constitutional system, the TASS news agency reported.

Four of the organizations recognized as undesirable were American, while a fifth charity was from Lichtenstein. The group included the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), who describe their work as “strengthening democratic institutions around the world.”

The NED released a statement on their website after the organization was declared undesirable in July 2015. They criticized the 2015 law as “limiting the freedom of Russian citizens,” claiming that it “contravened Russia’s own constitution as well as numerous international laws and treaties.”

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