India recently witnessed a strange spectacle of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his cabinet colleagues subjecting themselves to an intense scrutiny by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS, the Hindu nationalist organization, regarding their ‘performance’ in office.
Modi himself used to be an activist of the RSS. But an elaborate charade was kept so far that Modi was in command of the government.
The Indian media has since reported that the RSS eventually gave ‘thumbs up’ to the government after Modi and his cabinet colleagues trooped in to meet the RSS bosses and testified at the hearing on their ‘schemes and achievements’ in the government.
No Indian government has ever been made to look so foolish and diffident.
Why the RSS decided to subject Modi and his cabinet to such a dressing down publicly is anybody’s guess. Perhaps, it was to project the RSS itself as god almighty in the Modi era. But then, it is an open secret that the Hindu fundamentalist groups are calling the shots in the government, penetrating all walks of national life systematically and imposing their agenda.
The upshot of the RSS hearing is that Modi has blown his ‘cover’, which helped him so far as prime minister to create an impression that he is a humanist and a devout follower of Buddhism who viewed with distaste the excesses committed by the Hindu zealots on the minority communities in India such as the attacks on Christian churches.
Under the Modi government, incidents of communal tension involving Hindus and Muslims have sharply increased, according to official statistics. However, observers have generously absolved the prime minister himself of any responsibility in this regard, and are willing to suspend disbelief. The ‘cover’ has now been blown.
The fallout of this on the India-Pakistan relationship can be serious. Obviously, Modi can no longer maintain with credibility his stance that he seeks friendly relations between India and Pakistan.
In fact, following the cross-examination of the government ministers, the RSS spokesmen in their media briefings inter alia brought up the explosive doctrine of ‘Akhand Bharat’ as the guiding principle for the Modi government as regards the India-Pakistan relationship.
Broadly, the RSS’s doctrine is that the great Partition of the subcontinent in 1947, which led to the creation of Pakistan, was an aberration that can still be got undone if only India worked toward such an objective.
Pakistan has always had a lurking suspicion that there is really no daylight possible between Modi and the RSS. What used to be a dark suspicion is now likely to become an article of faith. Pakistan’s advisor to the prime minister on national security Sartaj Aziz (who is the de facto foreign minister) has been quoted as saying Wednesday that in Islamabad’s estimation, the Modi government won the 2014 parliamentary poll on the basis of ‘anti-Pakistan platform’ and has been pursuing the same policy from ‘day one’.
Aziz said, “They (Modi government) want better ties, but on their own terms”.
To be sure, the mutual rhetoric makes the prospect of a resumption of India-Pakistan dialogue a remote possibility. And it should be a safe conclusion that the India-Pakistan normalization will remain elusive as long as the Modi government remains in power.
Do the RSS bigwigs and their wards in the government realize what colossal damage they are causing to India’s national interests? The 31 percent vote share Modi managed to garner in the poll last year to create India’s first ever RSS-run government does not give these people the right to superimpose their sectarian agenda on the entire nation.
India’s national interest lies in creating a peaceful external environment in the immediate neighborhood that enables the country to focus on the development challenge through the narrow corridor of time of the next 15-20 years.
Yet, what India is witnessing is a ratcheting up of tensions in the relations with Pakistan. The past week alone began with India’s army chief General Dalbir Singh shedding his fabulous reputation for being a strong silent soldier of discretion and reserve – presumably, on instructions from the political leadership – to underscore the readiness of the armed forces to wage a ‘swift, short’ war with Pakistan.
It was an incredibly tactless statement to have been made in the present tense climate of bilateral ties with Pakistan. Besides, the brilliant general should certainly know that the only way he could ensure that a war with Pakistan remained ‘swift’ and ‘short’ would be by nuking that country in the dead of the night.
You don’t need a Clausewitz to explain that the ‘kinetics’ of war with Pakistan (nuclear power with bigger arsenal than India’s and with second-strike capability) will ultimately depend on a variety of factors that are way beyond the control of anyone in New Delhi, civilian or military.
Now, it is into this combustible mix of rhetoric that the RSS bosses presented their stark reminder to Pakistan that India has never really reconciled with the creation of that country in 1947.
Unsurprisingly, Pakistan saw dark intentions behind the Indian army chief and the RSS bosses almost simultaneously making such ‘back-to-back’ statements. The Pakistani army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif has since ticked off both his Indian counterpart and the RSS bosses (and by implication the Modi government) with a rebuff.
After what seems a very long time, the Pakistani army chief has spoken about what their version of the ‘unfinished business of Partition’ would be like – plainly put, peace with India and in the region is not possible until the Kashmir issue gets resolved according to the UN resolutions taking into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people.
As for his Indian counterpart’s dire warning, Gen. Sharif was plainly dismissive: “Armed forces of Pakistan are fully capable to deal all types of internal and external threats, may it be conventional or sub-conventional; whether it is cold start or hot start. We are ready!!”
Are we hearing the beating of drum presaging the beginning of another bloody round of ‘low intensity war’ (read vicious cycle of cross-border terrorism), which cost India heavily in human and material treasure? Or, could it be that India and Pakistan are inching toward another full-fledged war? Time only can tell.
Most certainly, people in responsible position should be careful about what they say in public. What Gen. Dalbir Singh said about ‘short, swift’ war was probably fit for a closed-door meeting with the Director-General of Military Operations at the Army Commanders Conference but not as the stuff of grandstanding.
Equally, while the RSS bosses may not be public officials, they happen to be extra-constitutional authorities wielding more power than many erstwhile emperors in India’s medieval history – and they tend to be taken seriously. Simply put, they should know that the notion of ‘Akhand Bharat’ has no place in the 21st century world order.
India is not presenting a convincing picture as a responsible member of the international community when the so-called movers and shakers in the country behave like hollow men.
The point is, India is keen to secure a seat in the UN Security Council as a permanent member on the plea that it wants to contribute to international security and world peace and development. Funnily, yoga, which Modi has begun propagating under the UN auspices for the good of the soul and body of mankind, is itself all about self-control.
And, yet, in its own region, India chooses to preoccupy itself with sly thoughts about waging a ‘swift short’ war with its unfriendly neighbor and harbors delusionary notions of doing away with a sovereign independent nation that came into being 68 years ago.
The Jekyll-and-Hyde split personality does not do good to India’s image. The country would have been far better off if Modi hadn’t blown his ‘cover’ as a humanist and a modernizer.
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