How Hindu Nationalist Agenda Is Linked to Doklam Standoff
The depressing drumbeat of bad news from Jammu and Kashmir and Bhutan's Doklam plateau may or may not be a consequence of the policies or actions of Narendra Modi's government.
Yet it should serve as a wake-up call for the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which seems blithely oblivious to India's external and internal security vulnerabilities as it single-mindedly pursues its implicit goal of Hindu nationalist domination of the political landscape.
Take the standoff in Doklam. On the face of it, the Chinese decision to build a road through the disputed Bhutan territory – the "routine affair of a sovereign nation", according to Beijing – is a challenge India could not have planned for.
Violence Facing Indian Army a Tempting Invite to China
While flare-ups along the northeastern border are nothing new, the primary lesson of the 1962 war for India has been to avoid giving China any pretext to inflict yet another defeat.
The question thus arises as to whether renewed religious and political tensions in India emboldened China to size up its rival on the picturesque meadows of the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction area.
With the level of violence confronting the army and paramilitary forces rising in Jammu and Kashmir, both along the Line of Control and in the Valley, the temptation for China to stir things up must have been strong, well before Indian troops crossed into Doklam on 16 June and physically blocked Chinese road-construction activity there.
What possibly added to the temptation was the spectre of ferment conjured up by the rash of attacks on Muslims by cow protection vigilantes and mobs, events that have projected a picture of instability and lawlessness which in turn has been magnified by social media and the international media.
Perception of Modi’s Inimical Attitude to Minorities Serves China’s Interests
The alarming news headlines would hardly have gone unnoticed in the corridors of power in Beijing, ever watchful of opportunities to pursue the "recovery" of territories it believes China lost to Western or Japanese imperialism.
The government of Xi Jinping is, of course, scarcely a paragon of peaceful accommodation with China's Muslim and Buddhist minorities, respectively, in Xinjiang and Tibet.
Against this background, Bhutan, which acts as a buffer between China and India's Siliguri Corridor, may have provided the perfect location for a major power to wage a phony war on a rising but weaker rival without actually starting a confrontation.
Sound Judgement, Constructive Criticism Getting Drowned Out
To its credit, the Modi government has of late taken a number of administrative and legislative steps that are likely to prove economically beneficial in the long term.
It is also courting foreign investors and technology companies, encouraging import substitution in the defence sector and promoting skill development and entrepreneurship to tackle youth unemployment.
With everyone from regional politicians and police officers to army chiefs and TV news anchors trying to jump onto the bandwagon of hypernationalism, sound judgement and constructive criticism are being drowned out by the din of competitive patriotism on critical issues ranging from Kashmiri youths' alienation to mob lynchings.
Public discourse in India may be inexorably on an insular and inward-looking trajectory but, alas, in the age of Twitter, social videos and Facebook, what happens inside the country does not stay inside the country.
Furthermore, South Asia continues to be a rough neighbourhood where both state and non-state actors are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to stir up trouble.
National Interest Has to Precede BJP’s Interests
Going forward, India's political parties, be they ruling or opposition, need to be disabused of the notion that they enjoy unfettered rights but no responsibilities in their pursuit of domestic popularity and power.
If the Doklam crisis ultimately succeeds in firing a warning shot across the bows of India's armchair Hindu nationalist warriors, then it will have been a salutary lesson for them: Identity politics and polarising rhetoric may make them feel stronger, but they leave the nation weaker and vulnerable.
(Arnab N. Sengupta is a Qatar-based journalist. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at email@example.com. This article has been published in an arrangement with IANS.)
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