Is the West Unwittingly Helping Modi Realize His Akhand Bharat Hindutva Dream?

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has recently opened a new parliament building in New Delhi. Prominently displayed in this new building is a provocative map of "Akhand Bharat" (Greater India) that includes neighboring nations of Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka as part of India. After the inauguration, Modi's parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi  tweeted a picture of the mural and wrote: “The resolve is clear – Akhand Bharat.”  Akhand Bharat is part of the Fascist Hindutva ideology of Modi's party.  In the last two months since this chauvinistic display, the tight embrace and arming of Modi by the West is raising fears of destabilizing South Asia. Pakistani officials have recently talked about a revision of the country's "full-spectrum" nuclear doctrine with the addition of "zero-range" nuclear weapons as a deterrent against western-armed Hindutva-fueled Indian aggression.

Akhand Bharat Mural in Indian Parliament. Source: Pralhad Joshi

Akhand Bharat: 

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Modi's ideological leader chief Mohan Bhagwat,  the head of the right-wing Hindu organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), said ‘Akhand Bharat’ was the undisputed truth and a divided Bharat was a nightmare. 

Now the Akhand Bharat mural and its justification by an Indian minister have drawn condemnation from Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan. “The gratuitous assertion of ‘Akhand Bharat’ is a manifestation of a revisionist and expansionist mindset that seeks to subjugate the identity and culture of not only India’s neighboring countries but also its own religious minorities,” said Pakistani foreign office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch.

Western Arms Deals:

Large arms deals have been recently announced during Prime Minister Modi's recent visits to Washington and Paris. New weapons acquisitions range from modern fighter jets to submarines. India is already the world's largest arms importer. India's defense budget ($81 billion) is the fourth largest in the world, according to Stockholm-based think tank SIPRI. Coming soon after the unveiling of  the Akhand Bharat mural,  these new modern lethal weapons' purchases by New Delhi are seen as a serious threat by India's neighbors. 

America's Bad Bet:

While the western nations are seeking an alliance with India to counter rising China, the Hindutva leadership of India has no intention of confronting China. In a piece titled “America’s Bad Bet on India”,  Indian-American analyst Ashley Tellis noted that the Biden administration had “overlooked India’s democratic erosion and its unhelpful foreign policy choices” in the hopes that the US can “solicit” New Delhi’s “contributions toward coalition defense”.

Earlier this year, India's External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar confirmed New Delhi's unwillingness to confront China in an interview: “Look they (China) are a bigger economy. What am I going to do? As a smaller economy, I am going to pick up a fight with bigger economy? It is not a question of being a reactionary; it is a question of common sense.”

Modi's India is driven much more by a desire to bring back what the right-wing Hindus see as the "glory days" of India through "Hindu Raj" of the entire South Asia region, including Pakistan. The arms and technology being given to Modi will more likely be used against India's smaller neighbors, not against China. 

Pakistan's Likely Response:

General Khalid Kidwai, Advisor to Pakistan’s National Command Authority and pioneer Director General of Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division, has warned about the  ‘toxic mix of poisonous ideology’ posing a serious threat to strategic stability in South Asia. “I have no hesitation in stating that minimum Pakistani counter measures would be put in place if a reckless imbalance is induced in South Asia, it is not a warning, it's a contingency foreseen,” General Kidwai added, according to Pakistani media reports. 

In May this year, retired Lt. Gen. Khalid Kidwai provided new details of Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine. He has talked about "zero range" nuclear weapons. Prior to this, the officially acknowledged lowest range in Pakistan’s nuclear inventory was the Nasr, or Hatf-9 ballistic missile, with a range of 60 kilometers (about 37 miles).  Kidwai described two dimensions of Pakistan's Full Spectrum Deterrence: “horizontal,” which comprises of a robust land, air and sea inventory of a variety of nuclear weapons, and “vertical,” which encapsulates adequate range coverage of its vectors from “zero meters to 2,750 kilometers”with “destructive yields suited for strategic, operational, and tactical levels.” Such an elaborate arsenal, he argued, provides Pakistan with a “strategic shield”, blunting the extant conventional asymmetry with India. Most significant was his statement that “vertically the spectrum encapsulates adequate range coverage from 0 meters to 2,750 kilometers [about 1,700 miles] as well as nuclear weapons destructive yields at three tiers—strategic, operational, and tactical.”  Talking about "zero range" weapons, analyst Sitara Noor  explained it as follows in a recent article that appeared in Foreign Policy magazine

"Talk of zero-range weapons suggests that Pakistan is either going to develop artillery shells as the United States, Soviet Union, and United Kingdom did during the Cold War—raising questions of whether it is going to be an M28/M29 Davy Crockett-style recoilless rifle system, the smallest weapon in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, developed during the 1950s as a front-line weapon with yields as low as a fraction of a kiloton—or it could be a hint that Pakistan could possibly lay nuclear land mines across the India-Pakistan border to deter Indian advances. Observers, especially in India, are left wondering whether this statement is based on some existing scientific research and design testing and necessary doctrinal thought process. Kidwai’s statement does not provide any such details, and in the spirit of ambiguity that Pakistan seems to have benefited from, there is unlikely to be a follow-up soon to clear the air". 


The West is making a "bad bet" on Modi's India as a check against rising China. Modi and his fellow right-wing Hindus have no interest in confronting China. They are much more obsessed in realizing their Hindutva dream of Akhand Bharat (Greater India) by attempting to subjugate their smaller neighbors.  This obsession could lead to a destabilization of the South Asia region, including an  India-Pakistan nuclear war


Riaz Haq said…
Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of modern Singapore, used to say: “India is not a real country. Instead it is thirty-two separate nations that happen to be arrayed along the British rail line"
Riaz Haq said…
Apparently, Dr. Manpreet Sethi, a Distinguished Fellow at Centre for Air Power Studies in New Delhi, sees a "Crisis in the Making" after General Khalid Kidwai's speech on Pakistan's new nuclear doctrine.

She writes: "Formulations like full-spectrum deterrence, buoyed by new weaponry, may seem cohesive to Rawalpindi. But that is not the case in either New Delhi nor Washington. Policymakers from both ought to make this clear to Pakistan’s military leadership"

This Indian reaction is similar to what we heard after Pakistan responded to India's "Cold Start" doctrine with tactical Nasr missile. But Nasr did succeed in burying the talk of Cold Start by New Delhi.
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Saffroning the Past: Of Myths, Histories and Right-Wing Agendas
Uma Chakravarti

Towards the late 1980s the stage was set for a conflation of an ongoing social and political crisis of a high order with the surfacing of middle class insecurities about the state of 'their' nation and of 'their' hegemonic position within it. This was the background to a rightward shift of politics, the rise of a fascist hindutva brigade and a shift of upper caste, middle class allegiance to Hindu majoritarian ideological and political formations. The ideological context for this shift was a crisis of the legitimacy of the state. One way of dealing with the crisis is to 're'construct the nation's 'glorious' past. And this is being done today not through powerful writing but through the power of the visual medium, the cinema and the television. It was a fairly conscious move by the state to telecast religious mega serials, 'Ramayana' and 'Mahabharata'. 'Chanakya' took off on the theme of a fragmented nation, carrying the mythological tradition forward in a more coherent way emphasising a joint 'xenophobia' against the enemy within. Although 'Chanakya"s appeal was limited to an upper caste elite, it was part of a larger process in which a brahmanic Hindu view of history and culture was consolidated along with a rightward shift in politics.
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Suhasini Haidar
In scathing edit ahead of SL President Wickremsinghe visit to Delhi, Sunday Times points to "double standards" by govt including demanding for devolution in SL North/East while "stripping Kashmirs autonomy", concern for SL Tamils vs brushing off of SL Tamil fisherman issues.


Sri Lanka's Sunday Times editorial

President’s long-awaited date with India PM

The Indian side is predictably going to demand an acceleration of the projects already on the table especially in the power sector (as with Nepal) and an oil and gas pipeline from Trincomalee to Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu allowing Indian companies to get entrenched further in the Sri Lankan economy. There will also likely be demands for devolution and the full implementation of the 13th Amendment in Sri Lanka (never mind stripping Kashmir of devolution) while dodging issues like the continuing poaching by Indian fishermen in Lankan waters – which is a ‘humanitarian issue’ for the Indian fishermen at the expense of the humanitarian issue of the Sri Lankan fishermen in the North.

The Sri Lankan side will necessarily have to recognise and thank India for the life-saving support (spoilt by the demand by the Indian Foreign Minister for contra deals) given from end-2021 to bail out a bankrupt Sri Lanka before the IMF came in and acknowledge the backing by India’s Finance Minister in the debt restructuring process that enabled the IMF intervention.

The problem for Sri Lanka is that it has no muscle, no clout to bargain as equal partners for win-win solutions when in Delhi, their home turf. It is a lopsided balance sheet.

As the Buddha told his chief disciple Ananda, “be wide awake”, President Wickremesinghe will need to follow the advice of India’s greatest son when it comes to discussing and interpreting India’s idea of leading to ‘a point of positive transformation’ of the Indo-Lanka relationship within the context of its ‘extended neighborhood’ policy.

Riaz Haq said…
The gates of Sulemanki Headworks were opened, closing them could have worsened the situation in Punjab. Pakistan Friendly Hand; Punjab Under Flood Condition | Pak Open Sulemanki head Works India Pakistan Border

Sulemani Headworks built on Sutlej River in Pakistan.

Pakistan has extended a hand of friendship amidst the flood situation in India. The country which used to close the gates of its headworks and dams in the event of floods in Punjab, has opened the gates of Sulemanki headworks this year. This step taken by Pakistan has brought a big relief. In the past, 1.92 lakh cusecs of water reached the neighboring country from Hussainiwala.

In the last 6 days, floods have caused a lot of destruction in Punjab. While the situation has worsened in the eastern case, it is now being felt in western Malwa as well due to the release of water from the Harike headworks. Initially Pakistan had closed its gates of Sulemanki Headworks near Fazilka, but now water is flowing smoothly into Pakistani territory.

Water level in Harike crossed 2.14 lakh cusecs
With this step taken by Pakistan, the major threat of flood in Fazilka has been averted for the time being. In the past, 2.14 lakh cusecs of water was seen flowing in Harike of Sutlej. At the same time, the flow of water near Hussainiwala was recorded at 1.92 lakh cusecs, which is flowing towards Pakistan.
Riaz Haq said…
Narendra #Modi Is Using Brutal Repression to Silence the People of #Kashmir, with the complicity of #Indian intellectuals who seek to toxify the cause of Kashmir. #India #Manipur #Islamophobia #Hindutva


India-controlled Kashmir is one of the most heavily militarized zones in the world, and any public display of a persistent Kashmiri national struggle meets with swift, violent, and indiscriminate repression. This pattern of silencing extends to the field of discourse as well.

The Indian political mainstream views any reference to Kashmiri rights and aspirations, whether spoken or written, as a manifestation of “fundamentalism,” “radicalism,” or (Pakistani-inspired) “terrorism.” The hard-right, Hindu nationalist government of Narendra Modi has carried this vilification of Kashmiris to new heights.

A History of Repression
The record of the Indian state’s repressive ways in Kashmir is extensive and well documented, going back decades before Narendra Modi’s rise to power. In 1993, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report titled “Rape in Kashmir: A Crime of War.” It showed that the Indian security forces routinely targeted civilians in the course of their efforts to quell the Kashmiri independence struggle, with rape used as a tool of counterinsurgency.

The report concluded that the security forces were “attempting to punish and humiliate the entire community” through systematic sexual violence against women. Another HRW report published the same year documented the routine torture of Kashmiri detainees as well as harassment and assault of health workers who were providing care. According to the report’s authors, the Indian authorities even “prevented ambulance drivers from transporting injured persons to hospitals for emergency care.”

The impunity with which the Indian armed forces have operated in the Kashmir Valley receives legal sanction from the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. This piece of legislation gives them emergency powers to maintain public order in so-called disturbed areas — all of which, civil society organizations argue, violate international human rights law.

There is ample evidence of this. Along with the acknowledged civilian death toll, there is the practice of enforced disappearances of Kashmiri men. Human rights activists estimated that between eight thousand and ten thousand people were “disappeared” between 1988 and 2007, approximately 60 percent of whom were civilians. People refer to the wives of the disappeared, who have often been missing for decades without being officially declared dead, as “half widows.”

There have also been several discoveries of unmarked mass graves in Kashmir. Eyewitnesses claim that those graves were dug under instruction from the Indian security forces, and that they contain the bodies of the missing Kashmiri men.

Blinding and Silencing
Since Modi took office, repression in Kashmir has been even more severe. Since 2010, the security forces have been using pellet guns as a supposedly “nonlethal” weapon for crowd control. In 2016 alone, they fired 1.2 million metal pellets in response to protests in the valley. The pellets left six thousand people injured, with 782 suffering eye injuries. Writing in the Guardian, journalist Mirza Waheed described it as an exercise in “mass blinding.”

A young Kashmiri student I spoke to in Mumbai describes the conditions in the state:

Stone pelting doesn’t happen that much anymore. But if anything does happen, the Indian soldiers quickly pick up anyone in sight. They will arrest you, take your paperwork, take your passport. In fact, in some cases, they will seize your property. This is normal in Kashmir.
Riaz Haq said…


In 2019, the Indian parliament revoked Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution that granted autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir. Most significantly, Article 35A had allowed the Kashmiri Legislative Assembly to “define permanent residents.” In effect, this gave it the authority to maintain the valley’s Kashmiri identity. The Indian state has engaged in a concerted effort to settle non-Kashmiris in the region and alter its demographic makeup.

Using the Jammu Kashmir Public Safety Act, a preventive detention law, the authorities have conducted raids and arbitrarily detained politicians, activists, and journalists. In 2022, pro-government journalists joined forces with the police to storm and shut down the premises of the independent Kashmir Press Club.

India has also become the world capital of internet shutdowns, accounting for 58 percent of all disruptions worldwide. Between January and February of last year, Jammu and Kashmir experienced forty-nine disruptions, including “16 back-to-back orders for three-day-long curfew-style shutdowns.”

Toxifying Kashmir
Physical and legal repression is supplemented by an effort to depict support for Kashmiri rights as toxic. Sociologist Mark Ayyash has written about the toxification of Palestinian critique, a process through which the Palestinian national struggle is “expelled from the realm of valid, rational and respectable knowledge.” There is a similar kind of toxification at work when it comes to Kashmir.

One form of toxification is the portrayal of voices in support of Kashmir as “anti-national.” In 2020, the police bookedKashmiri photojournalist Masrat Zahra under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), accusing her of engaging in “anti-national activities.” The act allows the state to suppress any activities deemed to be against the interests, integrity, and sovereignty of the state. Zahra was charged with “criminal intentions to induce the youth” through her posts on Facebook, which mostly included archives of her previously published work.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA), a specialist counterterrorism agency, also invoked the UAPA against Khurram Parvez, coordinator of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) and chairperson of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD). Parvez was accused of a series of offenses such as “criminal conspiracy,” “conspiracy to wage war against the Government of India,” and “raising funds for terror activities.” A coalition of human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Front Line Defenders, denounced the charges against Parvez as an attempt to “silence and intimidate human rights defenders.”

The same process of toxification applies to the written word, with articles both academic and journalistic equating the Kashmiri struggle with terrorism or Pakistan’s “proxy war.” They do not offer any substantial engagement with the call for Kashmiri rights and a national homeland.

A review by Sumit Ganguly in Foreign Policy of journalist Azad Essa’s book, Hostile Homelands: The New Alliance Between India and Israel, offers a recent example. In his account of the politics of Kashmir, Essa places the national struggle at center stage. Yet Ganguly was quick to dismiss this as “polemic” and a “one-sided account,” accusing Essa of parroting a “tired Pakistani narrative” on Kashmir.
Riaz Haq said…


A Disappearing Act
When India recently paraded the delegates attending the G20 tourism meeting through Kashmir, it was meant to show the world that Modi’s government had brought normalcy, peace, and prosperity to the valley. But in stark contrast to this performance, the young Kashmiri students I spoke to fear the ongoing violence of the state security forces. They were worried about being “picked up” at the airport, detained by the local police during a random ID check, or simply made to disappear on the way home.

They were equally aware that the ease with which they can simply disappear reflects the way that the Indian state has worked to make the entire Kashmiri national struggle disappear. In a country that has sharply swerved toward the right under the rule of Modi, it is not surprising that Kashmiris have been targeted, along with critical journalists and political campaigners. After all, they are the only ones standing in the way of India’s full-fledged shift to authoritarianism.
Riaz Haq said…
Washington’s Indian Delusion
Tim Willasey-Wilsey CMG

The US believes it has secured India as a strategic ally in the Indo-Pacific region. There will certainly be mutual benefits from the deepening partnership, but India has no intention of sacrificing its ‘strategic autonomy’ to join the Western camp against China, or of abandoning its friendship with Russia.


Central to the visit were several military deals. India is to acquire fighter jet engines from General Electric and drones from General Atomics. This is an urgent requirement for India, which has been incredibly slow to recognise its military vulnerability after many years of ponderous defence procurement processes and a heavy reliance on antiquated and unreliable Russian (and often Soviet) weaponry.


This contrasts markedly with the US treatment of Pakistan. Former Prime Minister Imran Khan was met with hostility in Washington after his feckless visit to Moscow on the day of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. In the months after Biden’s inauguration, Khan did not receive a single phone call from the US president, who was likely registering his irritation at Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan both before and after the US withdrawal. This cold-shouldering of Pakistan is doubtless part of US attempts to draw India into a strategic embrace. The US has a long history of trying to abandon Pakistan and then finding itself sucked inexorably back into an alliance with a country which is geographically significant and whose security (not least because of its nuclear weapons) is crucial for global (and Indian) security.

The central motivation for the US’s cultivation of India has nothing to do with Russia or Pakistan, however, but is focused on the increasingly serious global stand-off with China. With India being regularly challenged on its northern border by China, this might feel like a slam-dunk for policymakers in the State Department and at the Pentagon. However, Modi’s position on China is much more nuanced than that of his hawkish national security team led by Ajit Doval or of the pro-Western officers of the Indian Navy. He has kept channels with Beijing open and has made sure that commercial relations (except in the security domain) are unaffected. In fact, India–China trade continues to grow.

Modi is probably mystified by China’s hostility towards India. Having won a conclusive victory in the 1962 war, China voluntarily retreated to a demarcation line of its own choosing. Beijing may now worry about the proximity of northern India to its restless regions of Tibet and Xinjiang, but that threat is much greater if Beijing continues to alienate New Delhi. In Nehru’s time there was talk of Hindi Chini bhai bhai (Chinese-Indian brotherhood), and as late as 1996 Beijing contemplated taking a balanced approach between India and Pakistan.

When Modi was chief minister of Gujarat (when he could not get a US visa because of concerns about his alleged role in an anti-Muslim pogrom), he was a regular visitor to China (and Japan). Since becoming prime minister, he has weathered several serious Chinese transgressions over the northern border, but has resisted calls by his own national security team to escalate. This is partly because of India’s military weakness, and partly for fear of coordinated operations between China and Pakistan. But the main reason is that Modi does not want to do anything that endangers the Indian economy.

For all the talk of India becoming the third largest global economy by 2027, the reality is that India has by far the lowest GDP per capita of any of the world’s top economies. In 2021 it was ranked 159th out of 229 countries. In 2023 it will be higher, but much of urban and rural India is undeveloped, with high levels of poverty and deprivation and a lack of basic public services. Modi knows this better than anyone. His own humble roots provide him with a different perspective to that of the Indian bureaucracy and the military.
Riaz Haq said…
(Indian historian Romila) Thapar raises the point that in Buddhist texts, Ashoka is celebrated as an emblem of peace, non-violence and tolerance. The figure was then later picked up by Nehru and turned into an emblem of ‘New India’. However, in Brahmanical texts, he is listed merely as a Mauryan ruler.

She then point out how, contrary to popular belief, some historians in the recent past have been arguing for the presence of Buddhist ideas in epics. Thapar then highlights Yudhisthira’s struggle in Shanti Parva, the twelfth of eighteen books of the Indian Epic Mahabharata.

Sharing a struggle common with Ashoka’s, ‘Yudhisthira’ has to pick between kingship and renunciation. This, Thapar points out, can be traced to the Buddhist idea of power vs renunciation.

Popular historian and mythology expert Devdutt Pattanaik tweeted to clarify the time periods of the two texts that Thapar highlights. A supporter of parallel narratives, Pattanaik’s work on Mahabharata, Jaya, is widely read and celebrated.

Pattanaik clarified that Thapar refers to Yudhisthira, the character in an epic composed 2000 years ago and Ashoka who ‘wrote edicts’ 2300 years ago.

Past Controversies
In the beginning of September, JNU administration had received flak from academic circles and media as the University had asked Thapar to submit her CV for ‘assessment’.

Thapar holds the position of Professor emeritus in the history department of the University. Several professors were taken aback by this action as the emiratus post is usually designated for life. Thapar, who taught at JNU between 1970 and 1991, was appointed to the post in 1993.

Others called out the University’s demand a step to “dishonour the acclaimed historian”, who has been critical of changes in the JNU and for not ascribing to the right-wing narration of ancient history.

In the past, her works have been criticised by the Right for perpetuating a plural history of the nation.

In reply to the demand, Thapar had submitted a letter to the administration explaining the status of her position, and had refused to submit her CV.
Riaz Haq said…
Romila Thapar - India's Past and Present: How History Informs Contemporary Narrative (2010)

In conversation with IDRC President David M. Malone, historian Romila Thapar, widely recognized as India's foremost historian challenged the colonial interpretations of India's past, which have created an oversimplified history that has reinforced divisions of race, religion, and caste.

Riaz Haq said…
How did Rajiv Gandhi, applauded for his modernist ideologies, accelerate Hindu nationalism politics?
An excerpt from ‘India is Broken: And Why It’s Hard To Fix,’ by Ashoka Mody.
Ashoka Mody

In 1987, Indians owned just 13 million televisions. Friends and neighbours gathered around television sets in homes and at shopfronts. In villages, hundreds of people assembled around the one available set. On average, about 80 million people (almost 10 percent of the population) watched an episode. By the time the serial ended, almost all Indians had seen multiple episodes. More so than the Ekatmata yagna (the series of processions in late 1983), the Ramayana serial fused Savarkar’s view of India as the fatherland and holy land of the Hindus.

In a tribute Savarkar might have savored, the Indian Express’s media correspondent Shailaja Bajpai commented on August 7, 1988, a week after the series ended, “From Kanyakumari to Kashmir, from Gujarat to Gorakhpur, millions have stood, sat and kneeled to watch it.” Reflecting on that total absorption, she wondered: “Is there life after Ramayana?” No, she answered, there could be no life after Ramayana. Instead, echoing the void Jawaharlal Nehru sensed when Mahatma Gandhi died, Bajpai wrote: “the light has gone out of our lives and nothing will ever be the same again.”

For the 78 weeks that Ramayana ran, it presented a martially adept and angry Ram dispensing justice. The VHP projected its partisan view of the serial in its iconography of Ram. The author Pankaj Mishra described the Ram in VHP posters as an “appallingly muscle- bound Rambo in a dhoti.” Theatre scholar Anuradha Kapur lamented that VHP images showed Ram “far more heavily armed than in any traditional representation.”

In one image, Ram carried a dhanush (a bow), a trishul (trident), an axe, and a sword “in the manner of a pre-industrial warrior.” In another image, Ram, the angry male crusader, marched across the skies, his dhoti flying, chest bared, his conventionally coiled hair unrolling behind him in the wind. Accompanying those images, every VHP poster pledged to build a temple in Ayodhya. The dismayed Kapur noted that Ram, the omniscient and omnipresent Lord, was everywhere. Pinning him down to Ayodhya made no sense. “Hinduism,” she despairingly wrote, “is being reduced to a travesty of itself by its advocates.”

The Hindutva movement’s heavy reliance on young hypermasculine warriors to achieve its mission only exacerbated this travesty. In April and May 1987, when the Ramayana serial was in its early months, bloody Hindu-Muslim riots broke out in Meerut, a city in western Uttar Pradesh. By most accounts, Muslims provoked the riots. But then the Uttar Pradesh Provincial Armed Constabulary, infected by the Hindutva virus, killed hundreds of Muslims in cold blood.

Riaz Haq said…
Indian view of Pakistan Navy Modernization

by Guarav Sen

Pakistan has been proactively procuring technologically advanced naval vessels from China, headlined by a $5 billion deal signed in 2016 for Pakistan to acquire Yuan class Type 039/041 diesel submarines by 2028. Pakistan is all set to acquire eight such submarines from China, with four of them scheduled for delivery by the end of 2023. The first four subs are being built by China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation; the other four will be built in Pakistan by Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works, further bolstering Pakistan’s indigenous capabilities.

These submarines are equipped with advanced sensors and modern armaments, which tilts the tactical power balance slightly in favor of Pakistan. These diesel attack submarines align with the Pakistan Navy’s offensive sea denial strategy, which prioritizes the use of submarines and missile-carrying maritime patrol aircraft in naval warfare.

Apart from this, Pakistan is also expanding its surface fleet. It has commissioned Zulfiqar-class frigates, based on China’s Type 053H3 vessels, which serve multiple roles, including anti-submarine warfare. It carries YJ-82 missiles for anti-surface warfare and FM-90N short-range surface-to-air missiles for self-defense.

In January 2022, the Pakistan Navy commissioned its most advanced vessel, the guided missile frigate Tughril. The Tughril is the first of four powerful Type 054A/P frigates being built in Shanghai for the Pakistan Navy. The vessel is armed with surface-to-air missiles and supersonic surface-to-surface missiles (SSMs), is a versatile warship capable of undertaking multiple missions. The second such vessel, the Taimur, was commissioned in June 2022.

While the Tughril-class frigates represent a significant addition to Pakistan’s surface fleet, they do not pose a credible deterrent against the Indian Navy’s superior capabilities and numerical advantage. But still, India needs to monitor Pakistan’s shift toward power projection in the IOR. The addition of these advanced frigates enhances the Pakistan Navy’s capability to operate in distant waters, which is demonstrated by its ability to conduct joint drills with China’s navy in the East China Sea this year.

Besides China, Turkey is also playing a key role in stretching and modernizing Pakistan’s naval fleet. In 2018, Pakistan and Turkey signed a contract for the construction of four Milgem-class corvettes based on the design of Turkish Ada-class ships. Under the deal, Turkey will deliver four ships to Pakistan by February 2025.

Pakistan’s continued induction of higher-tonnage surface vessels reflects its ambition to enhance power projection in the region. The concerns for India lie not only in the naval imbalance but also in Pakistan’s first-ever maritime doctrine, “Preserving Freedom of Seas.”

Pakistan’s maritime strategy has evolved from an offensive sea denial approach to one focused on a sustained presence in the IOR. The Chinese-made J-10 fighter, which is part of China’s naval arm, can be used by the Pakistan Navy to carry out maritime operations in the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. The warplane can carry anti-ship missiles, which could enable the Pakistan Navy to play a more responsive role in the Indian Ocean.


Presently, Pakistan cannot come close to matching the maritime power of its archrival India, but the continued push for modernization and renewed strategic cooperation with China and Turkey could change the status quo by transforming Pakistan into a genuine regional naval power. A strong Pakistan Navy equipped with advanced frigates and other weapons is part of Beijing’s grand plan to ensure the security of Chinese oil imports coming from the Persian Gulf and attain control of the sea lanes traversing the Indian Ocean.
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Pakistan and the US on Monday agreed to further enhance their bilateral relations, including in the defence field, at a meeting between a top American general and Pakistan's army chief General Asim Munir.

Read more at:

US Central Command (Centcom) chief General Michael Erik Kurilla held a meeting with Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Munir, according to a statement issued by Pakistan Army’s media wing Inter-Service Public Relations (ISPR).

They discussed matters of mutual interest, regional security situation and defence cooperation between Pakistan and the US. “The visiting dignitary acknowledged and appreciated Pakistan Army’s successes in (the) fight against terrorism and Pakistan’s continued efforts for bringing peace and stability in the region,” the statement said.

It stated that both sides reiterated the desire to further enhance bilateral relations in all fields. The important meeting comes days after the two countries urged the interim Afghan government to prevent the use of its soil for terrorist attacks on other countries.
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Sex scene with Cillian Murphy and Florence Pugh in ‘Oppenheimer’ becomes latest target of India’s Hindu nationalists

New Delhi

Christopher Nolan’s latest blockbuster movie “Oppenheimer” has sparked controversy among the Hindu-right in India, with some calling for a boycott and demanding the removal of a sex scene in which the titular character utters a famous line from the religion’s holy scripture.

The film tells the story of the atomic bomb through the lens of its creator, Robert Oppenheimer, and the scene in question depicts actor Cillian Murphy, who plays the lead role, having sex with Florence Pugh, who plays his lover Jean Tatlock.

Pugh stops during intercourse and picks up a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, one of Hinduism’s holiest scriptures, and asks Murphy to read from it.

“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds,” Oppenheimer’s character says, as they resume intercourse.

The scene has caused outrage among some right-wing groups, with a politician from India’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) calling the film a “disturbing attack on Hinduism” and accusing it of being “part of a larger conspiracy by anti-Hindu forces.”

In a statement Saturday, India’s Information Commissioner, Uday Mahurkar, said the scene was “a direct assault on religious beliefs of a billion tolerant Hindus,” likening it to “waging a war on the Hindu community.”

He added: “We believe that if you remove this scene and do the needful to win hearts of Hindus, it will go a long way to establish your credentials as a sensitized human being and gift you friendship of billions of nice people.”

The film has been received well in most quarters in India, which conducted its first nuclear test in 1974, with critics giving it rave reviews and people flocking to cinemas to watch it.

Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie in "Barbie"
The 'Barbie' and 'Oppenheimer' double feature shouldn't be a one-off

“Oppenheimer” grossed more than $3 million in its opening weekend in the country, according to local reports, higher than filmmaker Greta Gerwig’s highly anticipated “Barbie,” which released on the same day and grossed just over $1 million.

India’s film board gave “Oppenheimer” a U/A rating, which is reserved for movies that contain moderate adult themes and can be watched by children under 12 with parental guidance. There are so far no bans on the film in any of the country’s states and union territories.

This isn’t the first time that the Hindu-right has taken offense to films, television shows or commercials for its portrayal of Hinduism. Some have been boycotted or even forced off air following outcry from conservative and radical groups.

In 2020, Netflix (NFLX) received significant backlash in India for a scene in the series “A Suitable Boy” that depicted a Hindu woman and Muslim man kissing at a Hindu temple. That same year, Indian jewelry brand Tanishq withdrew an advert featuring an interfaith couple following online criticism.

Meanwhile, analysts and film critics say there has been a shift in the tone of some Indian films, with nationalist and Islamophobic narratives gaining support from many within India, as well as the BJP.

Last year, filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri’s box office smash “The Kashmir Files,” based on the mass exodus of Kashmiri Hindus as they fled violent Islamic militants in the 1990s, polarized India, with some hailing the film as “gut-wrenching” and “truthful,” while others criticized it for being Islamophobic and inaccurate.

Similarly, the release this year of “The Kerala Story,” about a Hindu girl who is lured into joining ISIS, angered critics who called it a propaganda film that demonized Muslims.
Riaz Haq said…
General Khalid Kidwai’s warning to India

Join Pravin Sawhney on "The Bottom Line" as we unravel Pakistan's nuclear policy and India's political provocations. Explore General Khalid Kidwai's crucial role and the red lines for nuclear weapon use. Discover how China's support impacts the strategic landscape. Stay informed and gain critical insights in this concise video. Like, share, and subscribe to Force Magazine for more!
Riaz Haq said…
Growing India-US Technology Collaboration: Implications for Pakistan

The transfer of cutting-edge technologies to India is aimed at countering China, but it will also threaten the national security of Pakistan.


It is pertinent to note that the technology cooperation taking place between the United States and India is targeted at China. However, it will have implications for Pakistan considering the tense history of both countries, and the conventional as well as technological disparity between India and Pakistan. In this context, the transfer of cutting-edge technologies will not only threaten the national security of Pakistan but also destabilize the already volatile South Asian region.

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry, responding to the media queries on India-U.S. joint statement, stated: “Pakistan is also deeply concerned over the planned transfer of advanced military technologies to India. Such steps are accentuating military imbalance in the region and undermining strategic stability. They remain unhelpful in achieving the objective of a durable peace in South Asia.”


Keeping in view the evolving situation, it is important that India and Pakistan work toward establishing confidence-building measures. Pakistan has already taken a positive step, as its foreign minister visited India for the first time in 12 years to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Council of Foreign Ministers meeting in early May. Establishing confidence-building measures between both states would ultimately lead to a decrease in the likelihood of conflict escalation.

It is also important that major powers like the United States should keep a balanced approach toward mediation, keeping in view the regional dynamics.

Finally, although Pakistan is not presently in the ideal position to indulge in an unwanted arms race, it is still important to initiate investment in the technological domain in order to close the gap with India. Since most of the technologies being pursued in contemporary times are dual-use, it will be appropriate for Pakistan to invest in such technologies to reap the benefits in both the civil as well as military domains. For now, it is important for Pakistan to focus on developing conventional counter-tactics to be better prepared for emerging threats emanating from India.
Riaz Haq said…
How Manipur violence is challenging India’s politics

Modi and the BJP face a no-confidence motion due to brutal conflict.

By Ellen Ioanes

Interethnic violence has grown over the summer in India’s northeastern Manipur state , with reports on Thursday claiming three people had been killed and several homes set on fire. The clashes, between the majority Meitei ethnic group and the Kuki tribal groups risks spilling into neighboring states, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has thus far failed to seriously address the violence or the broader underlying issues of migration and ethnic tensions in the region.

Since May 3, Meitei and Kuki residents of communities in Manipur have engaged in horrific violence including reported rapes, burnings, and decapitations, apparently motivated by the state government’s efforts to extend benefits and jobs once exclusively reserved for Kuki to Meiteis. Over the past three months, the violence has become so extreme that it has triggered a no-confidence motion against Modi’s government this coming week.

Though the proposed motion won’t affect Modi and his Bharatiya Janta Party’s (BJP) grip on power, it will serve two main political purposes: to draw attention to the government’s inaction in containing the conflict as well as other failures and to galvanize the opposition under a new umbrella group.

Interethnic, sectarian, and insurgent violence is not new to India, and Modi’s Hindu nationalist ideology has contributed to the atmosphere of discord, if not outright fueled violence in some cases. The BJP governs Manipur state, and rather than attempting mediation between the largely Hindu Meiteis and Christian Kukis, the state government imposed an internet blackout that was only partially lifted last month.

The no-confidence motion won’t topple Modi’s government and may not even bring relief for the thousands who have fled violence in Manipur — or the many more still living in fear.

Violence in Manipur has become too extreme to ignore

India’s northeastern states — collectively called the “seven sisters” — are remote, often under resourced, and ethnically diverse. Some of these ethnic groups, called Scheduled Tribes, are transitory or share kinships across different states or even into neighboring countries; the Kuki, for example, have ties to ethnic groups in neighboring Myanmar and parts of Bangladesh as well as Mizoram and Assam states.

Because of its remoteness, porous international and state borders, migratory tribal groups, and the political and economic instability of neighboring countries like Bangladesh and Myanmar, northeastern India has seen many interethnic conflicts over the decades and under Modi’s government. In Assam, for example, tensions between ethnic Assamese and Bangladeshi migrants, including those whose families had lived in Assam for decades, have always had a political dimension — which was only exacerbated in 2019 when the federal government essentially declared about 1.9 million Bangladeshis in Assam stateless.

Manipur, like Assam, is poor and under-resourced; and inequality, real or perceived, exacerbates any tensions that already exist.

In Manipur, the Meitei people make up about half of the population, per CNN, and the Kuki make up 25 percent. As Scheduled Tribes, the Kuki have special access to land permits, jobs, and other benefits because they had historically been oppressed and denied access to education and livelihoods.

But a court ruling issued May 3 suggested the Meitei people also be designated as Scheduled Tribes, giving them access to the benefits — and, importantly, land in Mizoram’s hill country— that had previously been set aside for Scheduled Tribes. Kuki and other Scheduled Tribes rallied against the ruling, leading to the statewide suspension of mobile internet services, as well as a “shoot-at-sight” order issued by police governor Anusuiya Uikey to “maintain public order and tranquility,” CNN reported at the time.
Riaz Haq said…
#Modi's #Hindutva politics is pushing #India to the brink. World’s most populous country is degenerating into a conflict zone of sectarian violence. #BJP pumping out a steady stream of #Islamophobia & vile dog whistles. #Manipur #Haryana @Planet_Deb

Indian social media is a brutal place, a window on the everyday hatred and violence that has come to colonize the country in the nine years since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government came to power. But the images from the northeastern state of Manipur that began circulating in July were shocking even by those low standards.

A video clip showed two women being sexually assaulted as they were paraded, naked, by a crowd of men who later gang-raped one of them, according to a police complaint. The horrific scene was part of an explosion of ethnic violence since May that has turned the small state into a war zone, killing more than 150 people and displacing tens of thousands.

The state has a long history of ethnic animosities that predate Mr. Modi’s rise. But the fuse for the current unrest in Manipur was lit by the politics of Hindu supremacy, xenophobia and religious polarization championed by his Bharatiya Janata Party.

India is a diverse nation, crisscrossed by religious, ethnic, caste, regional and political fault lines. Since Mr. Modi took office in 2014, his ruling party has torn those asunder with dangerous exclusionary politics intended to charge up the party’s base and advance its goal of remaking India’s secular republic into a majoritarian Hindu state. The repugnant nature of this brand of politics has been clear for some time, but the situation in Manipur shows what’s ahead for India: The world’s most populous country is slowly degenerating into a conflict zone of sectarian violence.

Under Mr. Modi’s government, the state monopoly on violence is being surrendered to extremists and vigilantes. Those targeted by the kind of mob violence that we are seeing in India may conclude that equal rights are no longer guaranteed, that political differences can no longer be peacefully reconciled or fairly mediated and that violence is the only way for them to resist.

The targeting of minorities — particularly Muslims — by right-wing Hindu extremists is now a way of life in many states. Vigilante mobs, who often assemble provocatively in front of mosques, regularly assault Muslims as understaffed and underequipped police fail to intervene. Lynchings and open calls for genocide are common. India now ranks among the top 10 countries at the highest risk of mass killings, according to Early Warning Project, which assesses such risks around the world.

In Manipur, Christians are bearing the brunt as the state’s B.J.P. government stokes the insecurities of the majority ethnic Meitei, who are predominantly Hindu. State leaders have branded the Kuki tribes who populate the hill districts, and who are mostly Christian, as infiltrators from Myanmar, have blamed them for poppy cultivation intended for the drug trade and evicted some of them from their forest habitats. The specific trigger for the current violence was a court ruling in the state in favor of granting the Meitei affirmative action provisions and other benefits that have long been enjoyed by the Kuki and other tribes, which sparked a protest by tribal communities opposed to the ruling. The Manipur government this year also began a citizenship verification drive that infringes on the privacy of Kuki. A similar drive in neighboring Assam state targeting Muslims has already reportedly disenfranchised nearly two million people.
Riaz Haq said…
#Modi's #Hindutva politics is pushing #India to the brink. World’s most populous country is degenerating into a conflict zone of sectarian violence. #BJP pumping out a steady stream of #Islamophobia & vile dog whistles. #Manipur #Haryana @Planet_Deb

Emboldened by the state government’s rhetoric, Meitei militias in Manipur have gone on a rampage of raping, pillaging, looting police armories and burning villages. More than 250 churches have been burned down. Those were Meitei men in the horrific 26-second video, sexually assaulting two Kuki women. (The video was shot in early May but came to light only in July, possibly delayed by a government internet ban imposed in the state in response to the violence.) Many similar attacks on Kuki women have been reported. Mr. Modi has called the rape incident “shameful” but has otherwise said little about the chaos in Manipur.
The violent impact of his party’s polarizing politics is acutely felt in India’s heartland, too. The area near a tech and finance hub on the outskirts of New Delhi was rocked by violence last week as Hindu supremacists staging a religious procession clashed with Muslims. Mosques were attacked, an imam was killed, businesses were burned and looted, and hundreds of Muslims have fled.

In tandem with the B.J.P.’s demonizing of India’s nearly 200 million Muslims, television, cinema and social media are deployed to radicalize the Hindu majority, pumping out a steady stream of Islamophobia and vile dog whistles. Extremist groups, at least one of which appears to have received the public support of the prime minister, run amok. Muslims have been arrested for praying, had their livelihoods and businesses destroyed and their homes razed. Bulldozers, used to demolish homes, have become an anti-Muslim symbol, proudly paraded by B.J.P. supporters at political rallies.

As John Keane and I argue in our book “To Kill a Democracy: India’s Passage to Despotism,” it’s a signature tactic of modern-day despots: tightening their grip on power by redefining who belongs to the polity and ostracizing others. In the ultimate subversion of democracy, the government chooses the people, rather than the people choosing the government.

India is already a complex federation of regional identities, many of which consider themselves distinct from Hindi-speaking north India, the power base of Mr. Modi’s party. This federal structure is held together by delicate bonds of social and political accommodation. But they are fraying fast under Mr. Modi, who has no appetite for either, shrinking the space for nonviolent political contestation. Some regional political parties see the Bharatiya Janata Party’s centralizing and homogenizing Hindu-first thrust as a cultural imposition from outside and are assailing it with the same divisive us-versus-them vocabulary.
Riaz Haq said…
What India’s foreign-news coverage says about its world-view

Indians are growing more interested in the outside world, but not more expert


When narendra modi visited Washington in June, Indian cable news channels spent days discussing their country’s foreign-policy priorities and influence. This represents a significant change. The most popular shows, which consist of a studio host and supporters of the Hindu-nationalist prime minister jointly browbeating his critics, used to be devoted to domestic issues. Yet in recent years they have made room for foreign-policy discussion, too.

..... Mr Modi has also given the channels a lot to discuss; a visit to France and the United Arab Emirates in July was his 72nd foreign outing. India’s presidency of the g20 has brought the world even closer. Meetings have been scheduled in over 30 cities, all of which are now festooned with g20 paraphernalia.


What is the Indian perspective? Watch Ms (Palki) Sharma and a message emerges: everywhere else is terrible. Both on wion and at her new home, Network18, Ms Sharma relentlessly bashes China and Pakistan. Given India’s history of conflict with the two countries, that is hardly surprising. Yet she also castigates the West, with which India has cordial relations. Europe is taunted as weak, irrelevant, dependent on America and suffering from a “colonial mindset”. America is a violent, racist, dysfunctional place, an ageing and irresponsible imperial power.

This is not an expression of the confident new India Mr Modi claims to represent. Mindful of the criticism India often draws, especially for Mr Modi’s Muslim-bashing and creeping authoritarianism, Ms Sharma and other pro-Modi pundits insist that India’s behaviour and its problems are no worse than any other country’s. A report on the recent riots in France on Ms Sharma’s show included a claim that the French interior ministry was intending to suspend the internet in an attempt to curb violence. “And thank God it’s in Europe! If it was elsewhere it would have been a human-rights violation,” she sneered. In fact, India leads the world in shutting down the internet for security and other reasons. The French interior ministry had anyway denied the claim a day before the show aired.

Bridling at lectures by hypocritical foreign powers is a longstanding feature of Indian diplomacy. Yet the new foreign news coverage’s hyper-defensive championing of Mr Modi, and its contrast with the self-confident new India the prime minister describes, are new and striking. Such coverage has two aims, says Manisha Pande of Newslaundry, a media-watching website: to position Mr Modi as a global leader who has put India on the map, and to promote the theory that there is a global conspiracy to keep India down. “Coverage is driven by the fact that most tv news anchors are propagandists for the current government.”

This may be fuelling suspicion of the outside world, especially the West. In a recent survey by Morning Consult, Indians identified China as their country’s biggest military threat. America was next on the list. A survey by the Pew Research Centre found confidence in the American president at its highest level since the Obama years. But negative views were also at their highest since Pew started asking the question.

That is at odds with Mr Modi’s aim to deepen ties with the West. And nationalists are seldom able to control the forces they unleash. China has recently sought to tamp down its aggressive “wolf-warrior diplomacy” rhetoric. But its social media remain mired in nationalism. Mr Modi, a vigorous champion for India abroad, should take note. By letting his propagandists drum up hostility to the world, he is laying a trap for himself
Riaz Haq said…
India may soon be forced to choose between Brics and the West

India has so far managed to stick to its non-aligned policy, but with China’s vision looking to win out in the Brics grouping, it will have to pick a side
If it chooses the West, New Delhi will stand on the wrong side of history, while Brics could benefit from the inclusion of Iran


India’s foreign policy embodies elements of the thought of Chanakya, the philosopher and statesman from 300 BC, whose realist ideals helped create the first pan-Indian empire. His interpretation of human nature often led to a pragmatic but pessimistic outlook on the state’s functioning, one in which the national interest was key.

In his Arathshastra, he elucidated his Rajamandala theory, which sheds light on India’s foreign policy. He recommended forming alliances with countries surrounding the state’s hostile neighbours and preventing them from becoming too powerful and threatening its security.

There are echoes of this approach in Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s statement that, “this is a time for us to engage America, manage China, cultivate Europe, reassure Russia, bring Japan into play, draw neighbours in, extend the neighbourhood, and expand traditional constituencies of support”. He says India’s foreign policy today involves advancing its national interests by “exploiting opportunities created by global contradictions”.


The loss of India may only be a short-term concern as Iran could be a valuable replacement for the “I’ in Brics. Iran shares many of the same concerns as China and Russia as it has borne the brunt of US-led isolationist tactics. Tehran has drawn closer to Moscow and expanded defence and economic ties, making it a key stakeholder for any alternative global framework.
India faces a crucial decision in the next decade: either embrace China’s mutually beneficial approach or risk being caught in a zero-sum game orchestrated by the US. Attempting to have it both ways is not a viable long-term strategy, and following an ancient playbook will relegate it to the pages of history.
Sameed Basha is a defence and political analyst with a master’s degree in international relations from Deakin University, Australia
Riaz Haq said…
#Modi's #Hindutva diplomacy is hurting #India's image. #Hindu nationalist attitudes are alienating other nations. #RSS, #BJP’s ideological parent, openly advocates Hindu supremacy, resulting in hate crimes against #Christians & #Muslims. #Islamophobia

Just weeks ago, Indian diplomats had to douse diplomatic fires across the subcontinent after Modi inaugurated a new parliament building that featured a mural map of India, commissioned by the Modi government, that showed the country’s borders stretching from Pakistan in the west to Bangladesh in the east, gobbling up Nepal and Bhutan. In case anyone had doubts, lawmakers from Modi’s BJP lauded the mural for its representation of Akhand Bharat, a Hindu right-wing conceptualization and ideological goal of an undivided India.

India’s neighbors were horrified at this casual trampling of their sovereignty. Pakistan protested. The Ministry of External Affairs said the mural was not depicting Akhand Bharat but “the spread of the Ashokan empire.” The first to contradict this was, among others, Modi’s own Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi, who tweeted a photo of the map and said, “The resolve is clear—Akhand Bharat.”

Foreign minister S. Jaishankar, now a frequent presence on Indian Instagram and YouTube videos for his brusque responses to criticism, swat Islamabad off in trademark fashion, saying he does “not expect Pakistan to understand.”

The explanation was enough to set hyper-jingoistic social media feeds ablaze. But Kathmandu and Dhaka, traditional friends of New Delhi, were equally mortified. Both asked for explanations. Former Nepali Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai warned that the mural issue would “stoke [an] unnecessary and harmful diplomatic row,” with the potential for “further aggravating the trust deficit” between the two neighbors. In Kathmandu, Mayor Balen Shah, a young populist politician, cocked a snook at the mighty neighbor and published a map of “Greater Nepal” that included Indian territories. Under domestic pressure, Nepali Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, on the eve of his India visit, said he would raise the issue with Modi. On his return, Prachanda said that even though the Modi government had “clarified” that it was a cultural map, “further study” needed to be done in the issue.

This mural controversy came just weeks after the United States made public that Modi’s BJP and Hindu nationalist groups affiliated with it were propping up demands by Nepali Hindu groups to ditch Nepal’s secular constitution and turn it into a Hindu state. The disclosure, made in the U.S. State Religious Freedom report launched by Secretary of State Antony Blinken in May, also recorded Nepali civil society actors saying that Modi’s BJP could even be funding some of the organizations driving this demand.

India’s domestic media, mostly submissive toward the Modi government, ignored the report, but foreign capitals have taken note. There is growing recognition that these instances are damaging India’s standing globally even if few might be willing to say it aloud.

“The rise of Hindu nationalism within India will have an impact on India’s global image, no doubt,” said Aparna Pande, the Washington, D.C.-based director of the India Initiative at the Hudson Institute. She added that some of India’s actions in the recent past have been “damaging” to its interests, especially in its immediate neighborhood.

“The ideology or the belief of the ruling party in Delhi has historically not been allowed to impact foreign policy. It did not matter if we had a socialist government or one that backed free-market policies, because foreign policy was insulated,” she said.
Riaz Haq said…
#Modi's #Hindutva diplomacy is hurting #India's image. #Hindu nationalist attitudes are alienating other nations. #RSS, #BJP’s ideological parent, openly advocates Hindu supremacy, resulting in hate crimes against #Christians & #Muslims. #Islamophobia

This, though, is changing.

In 2019, the Modi government amended the country’s citizenship laws to fast-track citizenship applications of non-Muslim refugees from the neighboring Muslim-majority countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Leaders from the BJP made statements, without any pushback from the party or Modi, that threatened to “send back” the “illegal Bangladeshi Muslims,” referring disparagingly to the economic immigration, often undocumented, by Bangladeshis into India. In a rare show of its anger with New Delhi, Dhaka canceled scheduled visits by its ministers to India.

Local conflicts can play into the Indian government’s fierce nationalism. Last year, violent clashes between newly arrived Hindu immigrants and Muslim residents rocked the English city of Leicester. Police investigations found, according to the Daily Mail, that Hindu nationalist “elements close to Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party” were suspected to have played a key role in inciting them. The Modi government issued an unusually partisan response, condemning the violence and singling out “symbols of Hindu religion” as the target of the attack.

Five months later, in February this year, the Modi government unleashed a series of tax raids on offices of the BBC across multiple cities. The sudden raids came just weeks after the BBC released a documentary that investigated the role of Modi during the 2002 riots in his home state of Gujarat, which killed 1,000 people, most of them Muslims.

Ian Hall, a professor of international relations at Griffith University and the author of the book Modi and the Reinvention of Indian Foreign Policy, said the Modi government had been trying to tread a fine line by “sometimes using anti-Muslim language at home to mobilize voters while trying to maintain positive relations with Muslim states,” he said. “There is no doubt that outbursts of anti-Muslim rhetoric and attacks on Muslims in India cause problems for New Delhi, both in the Muslim world and in the West.”

These problems come in different forms.

In London, a foreign-policy expert who asked not to be named said there were many within the U.K. Foreign Office who were “petrified” and “worried” about doing business with Modi’s government, but also acknowledged the “overriding strategic concerns” that brought them closer.

India’s geopolitical significance as a counterweight to China in the region might ensure that criticism for its actions may not be too vocal, but that still won’t give India a free pass, said Kira Huju, a fellow in international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

“Western capitals are compelled by geostrategic imperatives in the Indo-Pacific to seek India’s cooperation, but they may well have gone further in these pursuits, had they not harbored deep reservations about domestic developments in India,” Huju said.

Some of this pushback was on display during Modi’s recent U.S. visit.

Media reports said that despite Modi’s insistence on not holding a press conference, the Biden administration pushed on after a marathon negotiation, ensuring that their guest did not leave without fielding questions from the press. Pande, from the Hudson Initiative, said the U.S. insistence on the press conference was a not-so-subtle message from the Biden administration.

Riaz Haq said…
#Modi's #Hindutva diplomacy is hurting #India's image. #Hindu nationalist attitudes are alienating other nations. #RSS, #BJP’s ideological parent, openly advocates Hindu supremacy, resulting in hate crimes against #Christians & #Muslims. #Islamophobia

When a U.S. journalist posed a question to Modi, infamous for not having addressed a single press conference in his nine years as PM, pro-Modi trolls, including Modi’s own leaders, viciously attacked her online and highlighted her Muslim roots. The attacks were so vicious that the White House stepped in, called it “unacceptable” and saying that administration officials “absolutely condemn” the attacks, which the spokesperson said were “antithetical to the principles of democracy … on display during the state visit last week.”

Huju said that even former U.S. President Barack Obama’s CNN interview during Modi’s trip, in which he implicitly criticized Modi’s Hindu nationalist politics, was possibly “coordinated” by the Democratic administration in the White House to send a message across to the Modi government.

Closer to home, India’s brand of politics is rankling friendly regimes, too.

Shahab Enam Khan, a Dhaka-based academic and a Fulbright professor at the U.S. University of Delaware, said that many within the Sheikh Hasina regime, traditionally close to New Delhi, were “uncomfortable” with the Modi government’s actions.

This anger against Modi and his government spilled over onto the streets in 2021, when the Indian prime minister visited Bangladesh. Angry protesters clashed with security forces, leading to the death of at least 10 people, and dozens injured.

“In Bangladesh, Hindutva is also perceived to be one form of extremism. Hence, many here are questioning India’s right to criticize other forms of extremism,” Khan said. “In fact, many here are now comparing the centrality of religion in India’s politics to the centrality of religion in Pakistan’s politics,” he said.

In Kathmandu, an anti-India brand of politics has been brewing afresh in the recent years, and the recent mural controversy only added to it. When Prachanda—the Nepali PM, an avowed lifelong atheist and leader of the country’s Maoist movement—visited India in June this year and performed a six-hour long ceremony at the Mahakaleshwar Temple in the city of Ujjain, many in Kathmandu were left aghast.

“Many here felt that this temple visit could not have been Prachanda’s choice; it was possibly hoisted on him by the Indian government,” said a Kathmandu-based geopolitical analyst and chief of a think tank, who did not wish to be named.

Analysts warn that allowing the Hindutva agenda to fray New Delhi’s traditional neighborhood ties could be dangerous for India.

“India’s neighbors are its first layer of security. India and its neighbors are in a dependence relationship—you can push it a bit, but you can’t break it,” Pande said.

According to Pande, the “entire ecosystem created” by actors belonging to and aligned with Modi’s BJP has “ensured that domestic politics now has greater impact on foreign relations with our neighbors than our foreign policy does.”

This was evident even in Modi’s visit to Johannesburg to participate in the BRICS summit between Aug. 22 and 24. The Daily Maverick, a local newspaper, reported that Modi “refused to get off his aircraft” on arrival, to protest the South African government deputing a cabinet minister to receive him.

Riaz Haq said…
#Modi's #Hindutva diplomacy is hurting #India's image. #Hindu nationalist attitudes are alienating other nations. #RSS, #BJP’s ideological parent, openly advocates Hindu supremacy, resulting in hate crimes against #Christians & #Muslims. #Islamophobia

The story went viral in India, shared widely by Modi’s critics. Hours after it was published, the Daily Maverick tweeted that it had faced a “massive” cyberattack by Indian servers, ostensibly “to deny the people of India access to this story,” and hence was blocking access to its website for Indian users. The government of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa rubbished the news report but did not react to the cyberattack. While the attackers did not reveal their identity, Modi’s party has been known for its proficient use of information technology.

This brand of muscular nationalism will have damaging effects for India’s foreign interests, analysts said.

Bangladesh’s Khan agreed, pointing to a comment by then-BJP chief and now India’s Home Minister Amit Shah referring to undocumented migrants from Bangladesh as “termites,” which remains widely remembered in Dhaka.

“The rise of nonsecular narratives [and] the rise of religious nationalism will destabilize the region because you are fueling toxic nationalism across the region,” Khan said. “It is inevitable that the more hyper-religious nationalism emerges in India, the greater political instability there will be in the region.”

Huju, the London School of Economics fellow, said that even the nature of Indian diplomacy, through the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), was at stake as a result of the Modi government’s assertive Hindu nationalism.

“Should there be a third BJP term, we are looking at lasting institutional changes to the way that the IFS is governed and culturally imagined,” she said.
Riaz Haq said…
Views of India Lean Positive Across 23 Countries
Among Indians, Modi and India’s global influence are viewed favorably

Next week, political leaders are gathering in New Delhi for the annual G20 summit, the first ever to be held in South Asia. As international attention is drawn to India, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that views of India are generally positive across 23 countries.

A median of 46% of adults hold a favorable view of India, while a median of 34% have unfavorable views. In comparison, views of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which were collected in a subset of 12 countries, are more mixed: A 37% median say they have confidence in Modi, and a 40% median say they lack confidence in him.


Indians are more likely than others to believe India’s power is on the rise. Around seven-in-ten Indians believe their country has recently become more influential, compared with a median of 28% across 19 countries who said the same in 2022. In those 19 countries, respondents were most inclined to say that India’s influence had not changed much in recent years (48% median), but only 19% of Indians agree with this view. Indians are just as likely as those in other countries to think India’s influence has become weaker in recent years (13% vs. a 19-country median of 13%).
Modi is popular in India, but has more mixed reviews internationally. About eight-in-ten Indians (79%) have a favorable view of Modi, including a majority of 55% with a very favorable view. In comparison, a median of 37% in 12 countries, most of which are middle-income, report having confidence in Modi to make the right foreign policy choices. Kenyans are especially confident, with 60% saying they trust Modi to do the right thing regarding world affairs, while Argentines are particularly skeptical. Just 12% in Argentina have confidence in the Indian leader. At least one-in-ten in each of these countries also do not offer an opinion on Modi.
Riaz Haq said…
Views of India Lean Positive Across 23 Countries
Among Indians, Modi and India’s global influence are viewed favorably

European attitudes toward India have turned more negative over time. Favorable views of India have declined by roughly 10 percentage points or more in all five of the European countries where past data is available. The greatest change is seen in France, where just 39% now have a favorable view of India, compared with 70% in 2008. Notably, French adults are also less likely than they were in 2008 to share an opinion on India. In all other countries, people are more or about as likely to offer an opinion on India as they were in 2008.

Indians stand out for their favorable views of Russia. Whereas a median of only 14% across 22 countries have a positive view of Russia, a 57% majority of Indians see Russia favorably. Indians are also the most likely to have confidence in Russian President Vladimir Putin to do the right thing regarding world affairs among all publics surveyed. Likewise, the United States is seen more favorably in India (65%) than in many other countries surveyed. When it comes to China, India stands out for the opposite reason: It is the only middle-income country surveyed where a majority has unfavorable views of China.

Negative attitudes toward Pakistan persist in India. Roughly three-quarters of Indian adults hold an unfavorable view of Pakistan. This includes 57% who have a very unfavorable opinion. Indians’ views of Pakistan have consistently been unfavorable since the question was first asked in 2013, with the share holding an unfavorable view of the country never dipping below 60%.
Outside of India, substantial shares in many countries surveyed do not offer an opinion on India and on Modi. In the U.S., this includes 40% who report having never heard of Modi. Some groups are more inclined to provide a response to the two questions: This includes men and those with more education in several countries. Younger adults are also generally more likely to offer an opinion on India. Within India, a quarter or more do not offer an opinion of Indian National Congress (INC) leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.
Riaz Haq said…
#Modi’s #India no Friend of the West . Biggest aspect of #Hindutva is “xenophobia. It may be muted “when and where the military and political strength of the foreigner” is overwhelming but thrives on an “incessant campaign of slander and denigration" #G20

by Pankaj Mishra

India is, suddenly, Bharat, and it could be asked, as Shakespeare wrote, what’s in a name? But Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who embraced the Sanskrit name for his country in the same week that he played lavish host to the G-20 summit in New Delhi, is trying hard to project India as a “vishwaguru” (guru to the world). It is time to examine his claims more closely, and also to see the present and the future of his “New India” without comforting illusions.

Take, for instance, the booklet, “Bharat, the Mother of Democracy,” presented by Modi’s government to visiting dignitaries at the G-20. According to it, ancient Hindu sages and kings were partisans of equality, inclusivity, and harmony. Even modern feminism was anticipated by the 5,000-year-old bronze statue of an “independent and liberated” dancing girl.

Such claims are part of an elaborate narrative that is decisively shaping the outlook of many Indians today — one in which a once-dynamic Hindu civilization was ravaged by vicious Muslims and exploitative Westerners.

In Modi’s own account, Hindus were enslaved by Muslim invaders for 750 years and then for an additional 250 years by white British colonialists — a version of history used in India today to justify the degradation of Muslim and Christian minorities, the destruction of mosques and British-built buildings, the purging of textbooks, and now the unofficial renaming of India.

Modi’s own popularity, unconnected to his party’s variable fortunes, stems from what is a potent promise in a country full of humiliated peoples: to destroy the corrupt old political order and, as he put it in his Independence Day speech last month, to ensure a fully modernized New India enjoys a “golden” period “for the next 1,000 years.”

Such millenarian bombast — also echoed in the speeches of Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping — belongs to a longer tradition of anti-Western demagogues proclaiming themselves heirs to distinguished ancient civilizations, including the Germans and Italians who sought to build the Thousand-Year Reich and the Third Rome, respectively.

It is a common mistake to suppose that German and Italians Fascists rejected modernity in favor of an idealized past. On the contrary, they pursued, often with help of Western nations they derided as “decadent,” ultra-modern technologies, modernist architectural plans, advanced transport systems and awesome public works. Like Hindu nationalists today, they used mass media, sporting events, and scientific breakthroughs to raise the pitch of collective emotion and project the image of a united and resurgent people.

Of course, since technological and military power still clearly lay with Britain, France and the US, the peoples failing to catch up with the West tried to feel superior to it in the realm of culture and philosophy. Invoking their great ethnic or racial past even as they sought grandiosely to supervise the future of the modern world, they became exemplars of what the American historian Jeffrey Herf has called “reactionary modernism.”

Presenting ancient Indians as pioneering democrats and feminists (also, the world’s earliest plastic surgeons), Modi belongs to this extended family of catch-up nationalists. His nation, too, seeks to blend neo-traditionalism with modernization while measuring itself, with volatile feelings of insecurity and resentment, against a weakened but still superior West.
Riaz Haq said…
If India ordered a murder in Canada, there must be consequences
Western countries have for too long acquiesced to the Indian government’s abuses

For years, India objected to Western strategists lumping it together with its violent and chaotic neighbour in the phrase “Indo-Pakistan”. Now recognised as a fast-growing giant and potential bulwark against China, India claims to have been “de-hyphenated”. Yet the explosive charge aired this week by Justin Trudeau suggests that diplomatic recalibration may have gone too far. Canada’s prime minister alleges that Indian agents were involved in the murder in Vancouver of a Canadian citizen sympathetic to India’s Sikh separatist movement. India has long been accused of assassinating militants and dissidents in its own messy region; never previously in the friendly and orderly West. And while India calls the victim, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a terrorist, he had rebuffed Indian allegations that he was linked to separatist violence.

India denies everything. But Canada is reported to have shared intelligence about the murder with its allies in the “Five Eyes” intelligence pact. None appears to have questioned it. Shortly after Mr Trudeau levelled the charge in Canada’s parliament, America and Britain released cautiously supportive statements, urging India to co-operate with a Canadian probe. The assassination, by two unknown gunmen outside a Sikh temple in June, follows a recent spike in both Sikh separatist activity and at times heavy-handed Indian suppression of it.

The squabble, which has involved tit-for-tat expulsions of Indian and Canadian diplomats, could escalate. Mr Trudeau faces domestic pressure to reveal evidence of Indian involvement in the killing. A criminal investigation is under way. The Canada-India relationship, already blighted by Indian suspicions of separatist support in the 770,000-strong Sikh diaspora in Canada, has grown worse. America and its allies will hope the rot stops there. Yet even if it does, they should consider this a warning-shot against the government of Narendra Modi—and their own eagerness to overlook its too-frequent abuses.

On its own turf it has muzzled the press, cowed the courts and persecuted minorities, even though none is a threat to it. The alleged assassination in Canada, too, appears gratuitous as well as wrong. The movement to create an independent Sikh nation (known as Khalistan) led to the killing of tens of thousands of people in India in the 1980s and 1990s, but has since been not much more than a talking-point in the Sikh diaspora, even as India’s ability to police it by conventional means at home has improved (see Asia section).

Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan beats #India 38-18 in #UNESCO vote for executive board vice chair. This also comes at a time when India has been projecting itself as the ‘voice’ of the ‘Global South’ — low- and middle-income countries in #Africa, #Asia and #LatinAmerica.

Islamabad's candidate secured the post of vice-chairperson of the UNESCO executive board. India’s defeat contravenes decades of its diplomatic policy approach to such elections.

New Delhi: Pakistan beat India with more than double the votes to secure the post of vice-chair of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) executive board last week. While 38 members of the 58-member executive board voted for Islamabad’s candidate, only 18 voted for New Delhi’s representative, and two countries abstained.

The executive board is one of the three constitutional organs of UNESCO — a specialised agency of the United Nations (UN) aimed at promoting world peace and security through international cooperation in education, sciences, culture, communication and information. The other two are the general conference and the secretariat.

India was elected to the UNESCO executive board in 2021 for a four-year term till 2025. Pakistan was elected earlier this year for a four-year term that will end in 2027.

India’s defeat in this vote contravenes decades of its diplomatic policy approach to such elections. “India’s policy has always been to stand in elections that are winnable. If the election is deemed risky, then full efforts are made to ensure India’s victory,” an individual familiar with the matter told ThePrint.

This also comes at a time when India has been projecting itself as the ‘voice’ of the ‘Global South’ — a term used to refer to low- and middle-income countries located in the Southern Hemisphere, mainly in Africa, Asia and Latin America. While the election was held by secret ballot, that India received only 18 votes suggests that these ‘Global South’ countries may have largely sided with Pakistan, since they form the majority of the board members.

The bureau of the executive board consists of 12 members — the chairperson, six vice-chairpersons and the five chairpersons of the permanent commissions and committees. The key roles played by the bureau include setting the agenda and allocating time for executive board meetings. The vice-chairperson has no decision-making powers.

All members of UNESCO are grouped into six regional electoral groups, and each such group is represented by a vice-chairperson. This latest election won by Pakistan was for the vice-chairperson of Group IV, which includes Australia, Bangladesh, China, Cook Islands, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

On 24 November, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan had posted on X, stating that Islamabad was elected as vice-chairperson with “overwhelming support”.

India’s permanent representative to the UNESCO is a political appointee, Vishal V. Sharma, a former independent director of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) as well as former officer on special duty to Narendra Modi when he was Gujarat chief minister.

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