‘We Meet Everyone’: Indian Envoy on Meeting With Steve Bannon
Indian Ambassador to US Harsh Vardhan Shringla met Steve Bannon and called him ‘Dharma Warrior’.
Indian Ambassador to the United States Harsh Vardhan Shringla met former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon in Washington DC according to a now deleted tweet by the Shringla.
According to a report by The Hindu, the meeting included a discussion on India, Russia, China and domestic politics in the US and after it received backlash on social media, Shringla said “We meet everyone from Bernie Sanders to Steve Bannon.”
A tweet by the Indian Ambassador on the night of Wednesday, 4 September, carried a picture of him and Bannon with the caption reading as “A pleasure to meet the legendary ideologue and ‘Dharma’ warrior @StephenBannon, an avid follower of the #Hindu epic the #BhagvadGita”.
The tweet was taken down eight hours later without any explanation. The tweet and its removal gathered huge interest on social media.
WHO IS STEVE BANNON & WHY THE CONTROVERSY
Bannon is most famous as the far-right ideologue who fuelled, in large part, the rise of the alt-right in the US. He was one of the key persons behind US President Donald Trump’s election campaign and later joined his administration as chief strategist in the White House.
The controversial figure also owned and ran the far-right digital publication Breitbart News, known for its extreme and inflammatory articles.
His links to embattled data firm Cambridge Analytica, which was involved in the Facebook user data privacy scandal, via his close relationship with part-owner, billionaire Robert Mercer, are also a matter of public knowledge.
In April 2018, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of the US Congress that it learned in 2015 that Cambridge Analytica had bought data from an app developer on Facebook that people had shared it with.
It has been a month since Centre decided on abrogation of Article 370 and amid the communication blockade in the erstwhile state, multiple media houses, both national and international, have covered the issue at length.
According to a report by The Wire, the meeting between Bannon and Shringla was part of latter’s efforts to meet influential persons of different ideologies and affiliations who could be helpful to counter Pakistan’s Kashmir campaign in the US.
“We meet everyone from Bernie Sanders to Steve Bannon,” he told The Hindu, adding that in his role he had to meet people of different ideological views.
At a public meeting on 31 August, Sanders, raised concerns on the situation in Kashmir after the Indian government’s abrogation of Article 370, and called it “unacceptable”.
In an interview with The Hindu, Shringla said “too much was being read into their meeting,” adding that some from ‘across the border’ were imparting conspiratorial angles to it.
Before the tweet was taken down, few Pakistani media organisations carried the news.
“Don’t look into it as a conspiracy,” Shringla told the newspaper.
BACKLASH ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Many on social media criticised the Indian diplomat for meeting someone as controversial as Bannon right after the government’s move in Kashmir.
(With inputs from The Hindu and The Wire)
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