Is it a compliment when the government of one of the largest countries in the world demands that you apologise for something you wrote? Ask Simon Denyer, India bureau chief of The Washington Post and a former Reuters editor based in Washington D.C. and India. #gallery-1 { margin: auto; } #gallery-1 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 33%; } #gallery-1 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-1 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (R) talks to reporters during a news conference in Sedona Hotel in Yangon May 29, 2012. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun/Files Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaks during the fifth India-Brazil-South Africa summit (IBSA) in Pretoria October 18, 2011. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/Files Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaks at the University of Dhaka September 7, 2011. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj/Files

Denyer in a Post article called India’s prime minister Manmohan Singh a “dithering, ineffectual bureaucrat presiding over a deeply corrupt government”. Denyer also said that the 79-year-old Singh has fallen from grace, and that he no longer fits the image of being a “scrupulously honorable, humble and intellectual technocrat”.

Denyer didn’t leave much out: Singh is an object of ridicule, has ignored his cabinet’s corruption, has let the rupee’s value collapse, has let his reputation be tarnished, has given away coal mining concessions and cost the treasury billions, and lost the confidence of his party long ago. The implication is that his main value is to be quiet and do what he’s told.

The Indian government demanded an apology. Denyer refused.

His words might be strong, but were they really so strong that they shook a nation of 1.2 billion to its core? Other media, not to mention millions of people on Twitter, have said worse things about Manmohan Singh, the Congress party that he represents and India in general. Time magazine called Singh an “underachiever”. The Independent declared him Sonia Gandhi’s “poodle” (before apparently changing the word to “underachiever”). Nobody asked for an apology then.

Maybe it’s because the United Progressive Alliance, which the Congress party leads, smells its own blood in the water as the 2014 general elections start to look like they might vault its primary opponent, the Bharatiya Janata Party, into the leadership spot. This appears to have made the government more sensitive to criticism from the big, bad Western press.