THE rise of radical Hindu nationalist movements like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 1920’s contributed to intensify Hindu-Muslim distrust that ultimately paved the way for the partition of India. RSS promotes the ideology of Hindutva (Hinduness) to strengthen the majority Hindu community. Many Indian social scientists have described the Hindutva movement as fascist, adhering to the concept of hegemony of regimented majority through force. The radical elements continued to fuel hatred among Muslims and Hindus even after the partition of India. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) adopted Hindutva as its official ideology in 1989. Though India boasts of being a secular state, the on ground reality is much different. After Narendra Modi’s, election as Prime Minister, Hindu nationalist, belonging to RRS, have geared up their efforts to transform India into a purely Hindu state by terrorizing other religious communities.
Indo-Pak relations have also reached the lowest ebb because of the policies of Modi government, which are based on RSS’ dream of Hindu dominance in the sub-continent. Modi government has been trying to destabilize Pakistan by sponsoring terrorist operations inside Pakistan. India has also launched the “water offensive” against Pakistan by starting the construction of dams on Pakistan’s western rivers in violation of the Indus Water Treaty. Even bilateral sports and cultural ties between India and Pakistan have been suspended. Salman Bashir, former Foreign Secretary and Pakistan’s Ambassador to China and India, basing on his firsthand in-depth knowledge about the psyche and mindset of Indian policymakers, considers India’s hegemonic aspirations as the root cause of hostilities between India and Pakistan. In his article: “Hostilities between India and Pakistan Continue after 20 Years of Nuclearization”, he writes: “At the heart of the intensely adversarial relationship between the two protagonists is; India’s refusal to allow Pakistan to co-exist as an “equal.” The nature of this adversarial relation has not changed. India has sought to reassert its conventional superiority by trying dangerous concepts such as the “cold start”, that is to fight a swift war under the nuclear overhang”. To substantiate his conclusions, he states, “The Cold-War mindset of Indian rulers has dictated pursuit of hegemonic agendas by military means in the region”.
Jaswant Singh, former Indian External Affairs Minister, in his book; “Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence”, pointed out; “But, our real flaw is, for along with several other there is one central difficulty that India, Pakistan, Bangladesh face: our ‘past’ has, in reality never gone into the ‘past’, it continues to reinvent itself, constantly becoming our ‘present’, thus preventing us from escaping the imprisonment of memories. To this we have to find an answer, who else can or will”? After the creation of Pakistan, Quaid-i-Azam also urged the nation to forget the past, in the following words; “Any idea of a united India could never have worked, and in my judgment it would have led us to terrific disaster. Maybe that view is correct; maybe it is not; that remains to be seen. Now what shall we do? If you will work in co-operation, forgetting the past, burying the hatchet, you are bound to succeed”.
Mani Shankar, the suspended member of the All India Congress, believes that Kashmir dispute and ‘India-directed terrorism’ are the two main issues that need to be addressed to improve bilateral relations. He believes; “India is still caught in a partially 1947 situation while there is change of mindset in Pakistan. The need of the hour, for both countries, is to engage in uninterrupted dialogue. While Islamabad has accepted the need for continuous dialogue to resolve issues of bilateral importance, New Delhi has not”. Mr. Salman Bashir hopes; “There is a narrow window of opportunity starting very soon to the end of the year when India gets immersed in its own election. It should be seized for the good of peace in the region as a whole”. Among those who have predicted an improvement in India-Pakistan ties is former Indian spy chief A.S. Dulat. He believes that relations would improve dramatically before the 2019 Indian elections. Prime Minster Imran Khan offered India to resolve the bilateral disputes through dialogue and trade relations. In his letter written on September 14, to his Indian counterpart, he proposed a meeting between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan on the sidelines of the ongoing UN General Assembly Meeting. Within twenty-four hours of accepting Pakistan’s proposal, India not only backed out from its commitment, Indian Army Chief hurled highly irresponsible and unprovoked threats to Pakistan. The behaviour of Indian leadership indicates; BJP is too weak to withstand the pressure of RSS and other radical Hindu nationalist groups like Bajrang Dal and some outside powers. It also signifies that the time for dramatic improvement in Indo-Pak relations has not yet arrived, as predicted by Salman Bashir and A.S. Dulat. Now we will have to wait for what Mani Shankar said while speaking in an event in Lahore in 2015; “Narendra Modi needs to be removed if talks between the two nations have to resume. Bring us back to power and remove them. There is no other way. We will remove them, but till then you have to wait.”
The peoples of Indo-Pak may be followers of different religions, but what a vast majority of them have in common (linguistic, cultural and ethnic affinities), should enable them to coexist, peacefully. To provide nearly one and a half billion people of this region with a breather from a state of unrelenting fear of an impending conflict between the two nuclear-powered neighbours, the governments of India and Pakistan are required to display greater maturity and a sense of responsibility. However, no positive development in Indo-Pak relations can be expected if the radical elements continue to gain strength by winning elections in the world’s biggest democracy and so-called secular state.
— The writer, a retired Brig, is professional educationist based in Islamabad.