The Ebbing Flow of Foreign Funding of NGOs
The non-renewal of FCRA (Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act) licenses of nearly 6000 NGOs in India reflects the declining dominance of foreign-funded NGOs and civil society organizations in changing times. As per the latest amendments to the FCRA – dating to September 2020 – NGOs are barred from transferring foreign funds to other domestic NGOs. The September 2020 amendments have also heralded other stringent compliance requirements that have made it difficult for NGOs to operate.
As a result of the non-renewal of licenses, the present total number of Active FCRA associations in India stands at 16,829 NGOs (Singh, 2022). It means that nearly 30% of the NGOs ceased to be FCRA-registered organizations at one go, making it difficult for them to sustain their operations over time.
Many of the prominent names whose license was not renewed due to various reasons – such as non-application for license renewal – include Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi, Jamia Milia Islamia, Indian Medical Association, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, India Habitat Centre, Lady Shri Ram College for Women, Delhi College of Engineering, Medical Council of India, Emmanuel Hospital Association, Tuberculosis Association Of India, Hamdard Education Society, Delhi School Of Social Work Society, India Islamic Cultural Centre, Godrej Memorial Trust, The Delhi Public School Society, etc.
Out of this long list, the case of Missionaries of Charity became politicized and generated much political controversy. Missionaries of Charity is a foreign-funded organization started by Mother Teresa in 1950, headquartered in Kolkata. It has a wide network of works all over the country. It has been accused, in the past, of proselytization and religious conversion to Christianity under the garb of social work (Kaushik, 2022). Most recently, its Vadodara shelter home was booked for religious conversion of young girls. However, due to various reasons, after much political controversy, the central government – despite receiving ‘adverse inputs’ about Missionaries of Charity – renewed its license till 2026.
Religious conversion by NGOs is a serious problem in India. In 2018, the government had informed the Lok Sabha that more than 5800 NGOs in the country, which receive foreign funding, carry out various religious activities (PTI, 2018). Many of these NGOs are usually involved in funding protests in India, such as the anti-CAA, environmental/infrastructural and farm protests. Foreign funding is a crucial source of such subversive activities. A leaked past report from the Intelligence Bureau had said that well-known international NGOs like Amnesty International, Action Aid and Greenpeace had undermined India’s international standing by their criticism and were indirectly responsible for reducing India’s GDP by 2-3% (Singh G. , 2021).
Thanks to government efforts, nearly all these NGOs have long ceased to have active operations in India – mainly by cutting them off from foreign funding. A survey by Bain & Company, of India’s philanthropic activity, said there had been about a 40% decline in foreign funding between 2015 and 2018 (Singh G. , 2021). Such prolonged and decisive action by the government since 2014 has certainly put the Modi administration out of favour with the western liberal media and political lobbies but bodes well for the country.
The Russia-Ukraine crisis poses one of the most serious challenges to Europe since the Cold War. During the last few months, Russia has amassed more than 130,000 troops on the border with Ukraine. Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have persisted ever since Russia ‘took back’ Crimea in 2014 and has been funding armed separatist rebellion in the border areas with Ukraine. What followed to calm tensions and prevent the countries from going to war were the Minsk Accords signed in 2015, (largely inefficient) calling for a maintenance of status-quo post-Crimea.
Russia sees Ukraine as an extended part of itself, having been a part of the Russian empire and the Soviet Union. However, after the collapse of Soviet Union, Ukraine has attempted to forge closer ties with the West, thereby antagonizing Russia. The present crisis was precipitated by Russia’s angst towards expanding activities of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Ukraine and eastern Europe. This has made Russia feel cornered. Ukraine has also expressed renewed ambition to join NATO – a scenario which Russia flatly refuses to countenance due to its own security concerns. In recent times, NATO was setting up military centers in Ukraine and conducting drills near the Russian border.
As a result of these moves by the West, Russia amassed troops and demanded legally-backed security guarantees – such as Ukraine not joining NATO and NATO’s withdrawal from eastern Europe – from the West in subsequent summit with President Biden of US. These summits have failed and presently backdoor talks are going on between Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine. US has antagonized its partners by repeatedly fueling war-mongering hysteria about possible Russian invasion. This has made even US’s European allies feel cornered.
In this unfolding crisis, the situation is particularly tricky for India. For, both, West and Russia are strong allies of India. As a result, India has not taken any side and chosen to remain neutral, hoping that the crisis would resolve. Russia’s other Asian ally – China – has given a balanced statement, suggesting that while Russian demands should be met, the status-quo maintained by the Minsk Accords should be adhered to. Thus, China has, both, supported Russia and, at the same time, ensured that there is not war/invasion by favouring the Minsk peace accords. Russia is not likely to subvert China’s wishes and sour relations.
Failure of India-China Talks
The 14th round of military talks between India and China, held mid-January, failed to yield any concrete results, much like the 13th round of talks held in October 2021. While a joint statement was issued, it indicated that none of the remaining outstanding friction points were resolved. India wanted disengagement at Hot Springs, Demchok and Depsang.
The talks also come under the backdrop of massive Chinese infrastructural construction of bridges and housing on its side of the LAC, but very close to the border, and, the passage of a Land Border Law that would allow the People’s Liberation Army of China to ‘protect and exploit’ the country’s land border areas. The talks are at a stand-still as India wants to go back to April 2020 status quo, before the Galwan confrontation broke out, while China wants a new status-quo.
Kaushik, K. (2022). FCRA registration of Missionaries of Charity renewed, valid till 2026. New Delhi: The Indian Express.
PTI. (2018). 5,804 NGOs receiving foreign funding carry out religious works: Govt. New Delhi: Economic Times.
Singh, G. (2021). Why is the government going after NGOs? New Delhi: New Indian Express.
Singh, V. (2022). FCRA registration of 6,000 NGOs lapses. New Delhi: The Hindu.