By Urooj Jamal
Five years of Modi’s BJP into the government, and South-Asia saw a spike in tensions among its three most important residents. Relations of India with its neighbors in South-Asia, notably Pakistan and China, have worsened over this period. This rise in tensions relates directly to the hawkish political outlook of Modi government in the name of “assertive nationalism”. However, Modi’s nationalist cum electoral strategy worked well with the extremist Hindu nationalist voters; and he managed to secure a second term, with an even greater mandate.
India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Hence, political developments and foreign policy proceedings in India at home, have far reaching consequences that extend beyond international boundaries due to its size and longevity. Therefore it is justified to wonder about “what this re-election of a Hindu nationalist BJP and an emboldened Modi means for the peace and prospects of peaceful coexistence in South Asia?” Well, the answer to this question boils down to both the historical hatred of Hindu nationalist BJP and Narendra Modi against Muslims and a new wave of foreign policy orientation we have been witnessing in India after Modi made his way to India’s halls of power.
Undoubtedly, Indian politicians have always been hawkish towards Pakistan. Though, this enmity worsened even more with a surge of Hindu nationalist sentiments in India under Modi government. Modi has a historical problem with Muslims and a Muslim majority Pakistan. Domestically, there has been a rise in attacks against minorities specially Muslims and Christians; and on regional level, an aggressive foreign policy stance against Pakistan and even China. Modi government has repeatedly accused Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism despite the fact that Pakistan has repeatedly called New Delhi to negotiate the issue and work together for rooting out terrorism, which has afflicted Pakistan more than any other country. But Modi government would pay no heed. In February, the two countries barely escaped from a full scale war that could go nuclear, after a separatist killed various paramilitary soldiers in Kashmir—the main bone of contention between India and Pakistan. Modi, as an election gimmick, exploited the opportunity and launched an airstrike against so- called “terror camps” inside Pakistani territory, violating its airspace. While, Pakistan retaliated by downing two of the Mig21 planes of Indian air force, capturing a pilot. Modi used this “political stunt” in his election campaign to assure his voters that he has the potential to “curb Pakistani terror” and “stand up” to China. So, not only Pakistan has been on Modi’s hit list, but China too. Under Modi government, India has abandoned its historic policy of non-alignment and officially joined US-bloc to counter China. In his countering-China measures, he refused India’s participation in CPEC, continued opposing it, and recently increased his political activities in Himachal Pradesh, on which China has a claim that it is part of Tibet. While China vehemently condemned Modi’s visit to the region.
There are a number of such controversial policies of Modi administration that have worsened the existing conflicts in the region and incited new ones. It seems, Modi has no intention for a cooperative and mutually developmental orientation. Experts say, his another term will be even stricter. The election success which his extremist Hindu nationalism has bestowed on him, is likely to direct his another term too. The landslide victory and an even greater mandate than the election of 2014, will embolden Modi even further. Therefore, he is likely to pursue his hardliner policies against India’s neighbors, hence, continuously attempting to jeopardize regional peace.
Fortunately, there is a good number of peace-loving and moderate-minded people on both sides of the border and across the entire region, who know very well what this policy of belligerence means for the security and stability of the region. The love of unnecessary adventurism and a foolish wary attitude in an era of deadly weapons of mass killing has never been a good strategy. None of the countries in the region can afford the luxury of such risks. The world has gained nothing good from this kind of state behavior except two catastrophic wars that plague the soul of humanity to this day. In order to gain stable progress and prosperity in the region, an environment of ethnic, religious and national tolerance needs to be re- constructed. Modi government has to realize the fact that, without integrating economically, politically and strategically with India’s neighbors, a dream of a prosperous and developed India will remain, well, just a dream. Conclusively, Modi will—ultimately—have to abandon his hawkish attitude and turn toward talks and negotiations on all the issues his country has with its neighbors—whether it be Kashmir issue, terrorism, concerns over CPEC or any other one.
The writer is a student of international relations at KIU