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". 

Summary:
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

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Comment by Riaz Haq on July 16, 2023 at 11:28am

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"


https://www.thequint.com/news/world/what-lee-kuan-yew-had-to-say-ab...

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 16, 2023 at 12:05pm

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.

https://nationalinterest.org/feature/pakistan%E2%80%99s-new-nuclear...

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.

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 16, 2023 at 1:02pm

Saffroning the Past: Of Myths, Histories and Right-Wing Agendas
Uma Chakravarti

https://www.jstor.org/stable/4406354

Abstract
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.

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 16, 2023 at 4:02pm

Suhasini Haidar
@suhasinih
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.

https://twitter.com/suhasinih/status/1680445293215600641?s=20

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Sri Lanka's Sunday Times editorial

President’s long-awaited date with India PM

https://www.sundaytimes.lk/230716/editorial/presidents-long-awaited...

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.

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 16, 2023 at 8:47pm

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


https://india.postsen.com/local/806198.html

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.

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 17, 2023 at 6:11pm

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

https://jacobin.com/2023/07/narendra-modi-kashmir-military-repressi...

BY
SOMDEEP SEN


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.

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 17, 2023 at 6:12pm


https://jacobin.com/2023/07/narendra-modi-kashmir-military-repressi...

BY
SOMDEEP SEN


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.

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 17, 2023 at 6:12pm

https://jacobin.com/2023/07/narendra-modi-kashmir-military-repressi...

BY
SOMDEEP SEN


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.

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 18, 2023 at 8:09am

Washington’s Indian Delusion
Tim Willasey-Wilsey CMG

https://rusi.org/explore-our-research/publications/commentary/washi...


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.

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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.

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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.

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 18, 2023 at 5:34pm

Romila Thapar - India's Past and Present: How History Informs Contemporary Narrative (2010)

https://youtu.be/J8HhLJzpx3Y

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.

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