Thursday, 24 October 2019



Two popular views on China’s future contradict each other. To some, Chinese power will rise to end the current unipolar moment. To others, including China watchers in the CIA who periodically release their scare mongering reports to the press, China will fall apart under the weight of its own contradictions, the foremost of which is capitalism in a communist state. Like crystal gazing has seldom been done with respect to India. India is seen reflexively as a Great Power on the make, with a growing economy enabling it to expand its military capabilities. The under-articulated contrary view is that such a future is not axiomatic, but is predicated on continuing social cohesion of India as a nation. This article analyses the dangers attending the rise of Indian national power in conjunction with a decline in its social stability.

Such a scenario is not far fetched given the ascendance of the political right on a divisive platform over the recent past. The run up to the next national elections may witness further communal polarization, the election worthiness of the issue being manifest in the Gujarat elections. In the event of national elections returning the ruling party to power unmitigated by its present coalitional constraints, the hindutva agenda to create a Hindu India is likely to be unleashed overtly. The implications of this for national cohesiveness are apparent. Thus the future of advancing Indian economic and military power, accompanied with internal instability, will be realized. Reflecting on the security dimensions of such a future indicates that the current movement towards realization of Hindu India of hindutvavadi dreams is not an unmixed blessing.

Rising Indian power will not go uncontested by its perennial adversary, Pakistan. Indian strategy of replicating US strategy towards the Soviet Union of the early eighties to push Pakistan into being a ‘failed’ state, would further corner it. To counter India’s hawkish approach, two options are open to Pakistan. One is the expansion in scope of its proxy war to include other parts of India in collusion with minority elements influenced both by their own fundamentalist inclination and by the broader communalization in the polity. This would complete the vicious circle, for it will be taken as evidence of the fifth column status of the minority, in keeping with the premises of hindutva philosophy of marginalisation of the minority. Secondly, it would lower its nuclear threshold so as to negate the expanding difference between the conventional capabilities of the two states. Indian flexibility in resorting to force, furnished by its expanding capabilities and by the incentive to use them being provided by provocative Pakistan, would thus be constrained, further emboldening Pakistan. Thus Hindu India will not be able to transcend the subcontinent to play a major role on the world stage in keeping with its power trajectory.

The Huntingtonian logic of ‘clash of civilizations’ will be on display in relations with China, for India would no longer be a state pursuing its legitimate interests, but a state representing 5000 years of hindu civilization finally coming of age. The undercurrents of antipathy towards China are evident in Indian representations to the US President on Indian motivations for going overtly nuclear. There is also prevalent the determinist understanding in realist security circles that competition with China for space under the Asian sun may turn military over the middle term. The very notion of equating itself with China has an ego-boosting component to it. Arming itself with long-range missiles and pursuing strategic nuclear weapon program puts India into the big league. These tangible security assets supplement the false pride that the other philosophical tenets of hindutva provide. The preparation against the perceived Chinese threat over the long term can only result in materializing the threat. Thus a Hindu India would open yet another front, as also the certainty that its two adversaries so created would collaborate to further threaten it.

Bangladesh is a state that bears watching, for there are positive trends in its human development index that will have a bearing on its national power over the long term. This, along with the issues of Bangladeshi ‘immigrants’ into India, makes it necessary to give it separate treatment, rather than club it along with the other smaller Indian neighbors as is routinely done. It is already implicated in providing a base for ISI activities targeting eastern India. Since rival fanaticisms feeds on each other, fundamentalism in Bangladesh and its anti-Indian tendency will only deepen with the saffronisation of India. The use of the ‘immigrant’ issue by the right wing in India will be handy for leveraging itself into power through a campaign of vilifying the minority as a readily available ‘Other’. Corresponding treatment of the hindu minority in Bangladesh will be taken as further justification, since Hindu India would represent not mere citizens but hindus. Therefore, India’s soft underbelly will be even more exposed, even as Hindu India rings itself with neighbors in league with each other.

Smaller Indian neighbors will be the sites of contestation of Indian power with the combined power of its larger neighbors. While Bhutan and Maldives may band wagon readily with India, Nepal and Sri Lanka can be expected to balance Indian preponderance with an inclination away from it in at least some issue areas. In Sri Lanka, Buddhist fundamentalism could gain impetus, particularly if Hindu India feels inclined to take a religiously inspired position on a persisting Tamil question. Nepal, already taken as an ISI base, may continue as one if the Maoist insurgency grows. India’s interest in a stable Nepal are particularly acute owing to a proportion of its army being of Nepalese ethnicity and to contiguity of Nepal to India’s nexalite ‘badlands’ stretching from Bihar to Telangana. The status quo in the evolution of the SAARC would continue to deepen. Growing Indian economic power would compel these countries to seal off their economies to preserve them against Indian economic preponderance. Unilateral Indian concessions, though making sound economic and political sense, may be less forthcoming from adrenalin charged Hindu India. Thus, while regions coalesce into economic blocs for greater competitiveness in a globalised world elsewhere, South Asia will miss what shall turn out the most critical trend as the century unfolds. 

In its relations with the sole superpower, India has already revealed a disturbing initiative towards being the ‘most allied ally’. There are two fronts along which this association may be boomerang on India. One is that India may lend itself to the ends of a policy of containment of China, thereby enmeshing itself in Great Power games. While this may help the saffron leadership for adopting attitudes of statesmanship, it bears recounting that there is no region that has been left unscathed after having been embraced by the USA.

Second is that in trying to gain American attention India has been presenting itself as a similar victim of pan-islamic terrorism. One end of the muslim terrorist arc stretching from Chechenya is deemed to be ending in Kashmir. By projecting its understanding with USA as ‘natural’, India is associating itself with the reactionary reassertion of neo-colonial control of the energy resources, in league with its friend of recent vintage, Israel. Thus, India is opening itself to targeting by partially quasi-nationalist forces, presently deservingly designated ‘terrorist’. The restive minority in a Hindu India could find tactical allies amongst these terrorist forces, quite like the disaffected muslim underworld elements in Bombay who turned to the ISI for engineering the retaliatory Bombay blasts in 1993. Thus ‘islam’s bloody borders’, to use a huntingtonian expression borrowed by Mr. Vajpayee for his controversial anti-minority speech in Goa, would be imported into India. The future may find India on the wrong side of history.

The contradiction is that though Indian economic and military power will continue to grow, it will be proportionately less able to cope with the worsening security situation. Economic priorities will leave considerable angst within the vulnerable sections of society. The ‘experiment’ in the ‘hindutva laboratory’ of making the lower classes and tribals participate in anti-minority pogroms would help in psychological projection as also distraction in the short term. Over the long term, the limitations in neo-liberal agenda will surface to compound the internal security problematic. The kind of military power invested in, to include high profile missiles and nuclear weapons; and technology intensive and mechanized armed forces, will be the least appropriate to address the security problems that will arise in Hindu India. The police, in the tradition established by the Bombay police of abnegating professional responsibility, or worse, in determining it to be the service of the hindutva philosophy, will exacerbate the law and order situation. A reversion to the days of the Emergency when a ‘committed’ civil service was thought desirable will occur with similar results, only this time the commitment to hindutva line will rob the Indian state of its traditional neutrality and credibility in intervening in intra-societal conflict. Thus Hindu India will be its own gravest enemy.

While the Gujarat electorate has bought the line that the minority ‘threat’ in its midst can best be met by hindutva inspired governance, it would be tragic were this to be replicated at the national scale as is the endeavor of rightist formations. Their effort will be to emulate the resounding victory of Rajiv’s Congress of 1984 in both substance and result. This strategy will have to be combated first conceptually in intellectual discourse and then physically at the hustings. The Geobblesian ‘hindus and hinduism in danger’ line has to be revealed as true, not from the directions pointed out by those crying wolf, but from the scare mongers themselves. Hindu India will not only endanger India, but also will constitute its own greatest threat. Hindu India will not only menace minorities, but also hinduism and hindus.