At a time when the significance of regional peace and economic prosperity are interlinked, the geopolitical ambitions and the desire of domination by one state over its neighbors ridden with the extremist Hindutva ideology – that has taken a hold of it – are endangering the peace and stability of South Asia. A considerable military power with an extremist ideology at the wheel has fomented the overzealous mob rule with the brute force of Hindu majoritarianism and a divisive Hindu-first agenda. The extreme ideologies of radical Hinduism such as Hindutva and Akhand Bharat have instigated the Hindu majority to take a harsher stance towards the minorities, which is ruthlessly authoritarian. The same ideology is seen to be affecting the military strategic thinking, turning it to become dangerously jingoistic and belligerent.
The extremist Hindutva ideology has taken the centre-stage, fanning the flames of intolerance in the form of lynching, the reconversion campaigns through Ghar Wapsi and Love Jihad that has become a new normal, greatly stigmatizing the Indian minorities – particularly Muslims. The history books are being rewritten with the sections on Muslim rulers being lopped out, official names of locations are being changed from Muslim to Hindu and there’s aggressive contestation on the Holy sites. Such actions propelled by populist leaders and backed by an extremist ideology are not only furthering the divide between the sections of the society but also cultivating an overall culture of hate, violence and prejudice. This menace of violent domination is not limited solely within the confines of Indian state, it has over-stepped in other countries as well. Not only Pakistan but other countries in the region are also equally facing the perils of rising Hindutva.
The region needs to be well aware of the dangers posed by an aggressive Indian power with a hegemonic mindset; rather the idea of a Greater Hindustan with its expansionist proclivities, which is pushing India in an increasingly ‘aggressive’ posture. This mindset often causes friction in its relations with the neighboring countries, raising questions about India’s ambitions in the region. In few cases, the smaller neighboring countries have found it hard to formulate independent foreign and economic policies due to the looming Indian threat.
The Indian establishment which plays hardball and tries to meddle in its smaller neighbours’ internal affairs got itself entangled in neighboring states’ domestic affairs. Modi’s comments during his second visit to its neighbor in the north-east were considered interference in its domestic affairs when he suggested through a special envoy that its new constitution should reflect the aspirations of all its citizens. India is also hardwired to support insurgency in the neighboring countries; the prime example of which is acts of terrorism, which led to decades of destruction and the recent Easter bombings in its neighboring island state to the South. Back in the 1980s its misguided policy of training and arming the Tamil militants ended up in the expansion of the conflict which the Indian forces were unable to control later when the situation got out of hand. Recently, India also exhibited its brinkmanship and intransigence during Doklam dispute when its troops crossed into the Chinese territory to physically stop China from constructing a road in Doklam, on behalf of a third country, without any valid justification. The only reason that the situation didn’t get out of hand was due to China’s prudent policies and diplomacy in the face of this interference. India’s continuous efforts to portray itself as the hegemon in the region are also evident from its interference in the affairs of another neighboring island state with Muslim majority in the Indian Ocean. The present fears of the island state growing increasingly assertive and the consequent decrease in India’s sphere of influence has urged it to amp up its efforts. In a nutshell, the zero-sum game mindset of India towards its neighbors has put the stability of the region at risk.
India’s hegemonic designs have only further expanded since the formulation of the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy that aims to build up India as a dominating power in the region, primarily as a counterweight to China. It is this very support that has further emboldened India to scale up its interference into the internal affairs of its regional neighbors, forgoing the basic principle of non-intervention.
If the past is any guide, the future of South Asia is fraught with risk and thus cannot be discounted. Peace is only possible if India keeps its ambitious aggressive agenda against other countries in check. As Chief of the Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, recently reiterated that countries cannot develop individually, it’s the region that develops. It is on this that the stability of the region rests.
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