India is the largest democracy in the World by its Constitution. However, the rise of Hindu Nationalism has created some discomfort who are followers of other Religions than Hinduism. The Visibility of this impact isn't only limited to its Land Boundaries. However, it is sometimes also reflected in its Foreign Policy decisions. This article assesses the influence of growing Hindu Nationalism on India's Foreign Policy conduct.
The colonizers sowed the seeds of social and political conflicts in India in the late nineteenth century to divide the country. Since Independence, questions about nationhood have erupted. Should India be a Secular republic governed through Democratic Values or Hindu Rashtra governed by the laws of religious texts such as Manusmriti? Following the end of the British Colonisation in 1947, India's new Constitution established a secular republic with a "principled distance" between religion and State rather than a strict separation of church and State (as seen in many Western democracies). The societal reaction to India's constitutional secularism may have its roots in this decision. The government decided to formally remove itself from all of the various religions present in Indian culture rather than embracing them all. This is one of the causes of the numerous religious conflicts that have broken out in India since its Independence. These religious conflicts may have contributed to the possibility that a Hindu nationalist party like the BJP may win a resounding victory in the 2014 election.
With the landslide victory of the Bharatiya Janta Party in the 2014 and 2019 elections, the phenomena of extreme polarization on religious lines is increasing, which is a cause of concern. Since then, Pakistan and China's attacks on India's eastern and western borders have risen; opposition parties in India are busy defending the ideals of Secularism and Pluralism, and communal tensions between the two major groups have reached the tip of the iceberg. Despite the regime's hard-line nationalistic policies, many foreign policy experts argued that India's foreign policy followed a predictable path. When it came to dealing with international powers on security concerns, the influence of the BJP's ideology is less evident. However, we are now seeing some subtle strains of Hindu Nationalism in India's recent foreign policy conduct.
INDIA'S SECULARISM: A CASE STUDY
According to secularism, no specific religion is protected by the government. Religion entails respecting individual differences and enabling people to practice their religion as they see fit. Secularism is referred to as being non-spiritual in British texts. There will be no official state religion, yet secularism does not equate to atheism because it shares the same faith in all major world religions. Additionally, religion will not control the political system.
Secularism is not just a passive attitude of religious tolerance but also an optimistic idea of treating all religions equally (Jain, 2008). A secular state does not favor any one religion over another. The State will not establish a State religion, give any citizen preferential treatment, or engage in any form of discrimination against them because they practice a specific religion (Pylee, 2007). The absence of a state-sponsored religion does not imply that a state is theocratic. A secular state does not support or oppose any specific religion. Neither religious nor agnostic, it is neither. Additionally, a secular state guarantees everyone equal protection and preserves neutrality in questions of religion.
As far as the Indian scenario of secularism is concerned, Dr. Br Ambedkar, in one of his addresses to the Constituent Assembly, said," It (secular State) does not mean that we shall not take into consideration the religious sentiment of the people. All that a secular State means is that this Parliament shall not be competent to impose any particular religion upon rest of the people".
In the Indian concept of secularism, there is a lack of clarity on the relationships between the State, society, and religion. Religions have varying personal laws. The future and success of secularism in India are seriously threatened by the insecure situation of religious minorities and political forms' links to religious fundamentalists. However, the term "secular" was not included in the Indian Constitution until 1976 as part of the Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act; the term was also added to the Constitution's preamble (Katrak, & Kulkarni, 2021). The preamble of the Constitution was changed from "Sovereign Socialist Republic" to "Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic" by the 42nd Amendment. Bhargava stated that "India created a distinctively Indian and differently modern type of secularism" in his definition of Indian secularism. Then he asserted that religion and the State should be kept at a "principled distance." Indian secularism never sought brutal commercialization of religion; instead, it seeks to "balance the claims of individuals and religious communities" (Bhargava, 2006, 20-21). While not as universally acknowledged as secularism in the Western sense, Indian secularism describes a different reality. India has a distinctive secular spirit that was built through the course of political history and is based on special socio-cultural conditions. All religions in the Republic of India are simply referred to as dancing with the secular spirit enshrined in the Indian Constitution.
On the one hand, secularism is not a state concern; on the other, the State upholds secularism through legislation and public administration. For instance, the government oversees Hindu temples. In the cabinets of several Federated States, there is a Haj minister. The Indian Parliament even passed an Act (No. 35 of 2002) creating the "Haj Committee of India" as a legal entity to oversee the Indian Haj pilgrimage. Thus, in the Indian context, secularism values involve many dilemmas.
The RSS (the ideological body of the BJP) considers that "secularism is irrelevant in India." They have primarily supported the saffron party (the symbolic color of Hindutva derived from Hindu roots). Some people believe that the national flag should only have the color saffron because other colors are thought to symbolize communal dynamics.
HINDU NATIONALISM AND INDIA'S FOREIGN POLICY
A landslide victory in 2014 demonstrated the BJP's achievement in introducing the "ideological framework" of Hindu nationalism into Indian politics. This occasion also cemented Narendra Modi's position as the Party's most powerful orator. Modi was the long-serving Chief Minister of the Indian State of Gujrat before he was elected Prime Minister in 2014. His ascension coincided with the emergence of "a powerful, pro-Hindu form of nationalism." Hindu nationalism was primarily created under the BJP's new political leadership and became a crucial concept in Indian democracy. The RSS family, a cultural organization, is regarded as the BJP's political affiliation (more accurately, a radical Hindu nationalist organization). More than 200 organizations make up the RSS, all of which are the real defenders of Hindu civilization and Indian Vedic tradition.
According to RSS, Hindutva is a national-cultural category rather than a religious one, and its supporters view it as equivalent to India's concept. The Sangh Parivar (RSS, including its regional bodies) contends that Muslims and other non-Hindu Indians should have no issue accepting Hindutva. They must be "traitors to the nation" if they decide not to. According to Indian historian Ramchandra Guha, the Hindutva-nationalism is founded on "19th century European and medieval Middle Eastern (Islamic) notions." This indicates that Hindu nationalism is spreading through a shared enemy, common language, and religion. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, he said, "is a nation that practices ideal European nationalism."
Guha also noticed a shift in the pattern of Hindu nationalism as the BJP used its central authority to influence the actual rise of Hindutva. He said that "today's Hindutva agenda tries to advance the idea that Hindus are the greatest, Hindi is the best language, and hatred of Pakistan is vital to be a true Indian citizen and a patriot." He identified four factors that led to the rise of this "Jingoism": 1) The Congress Party's corruption, 2) The Left's hypocrisy, 3) The Rise of Islamic Fundamentalism Abroad, and d) The Global Rise of Jingoist Nationalism Hindus make up 80% of India's population, and nearly 900 million people registered to vote in the 2019 General Assembly election. Thus, Helping BJP to cement its power at the center stage.
The effect of the Hindutva ag visible in India's foreign policy. For instanceHiuuuran, Hiju examined the the'Saffronization' of Indian Foreign Services. She pointed out that IFS played an important role in delivering India's external objectives and exaggerating the idea of the 'spiritual superiority of Hinduism'. For example, Indian Diplomats now actively organize annual religious fairs, Kumbh Mela. The founding of India's soft powers, such as Yoga, was greatly advanced to the World by the Ministry of External affairs. The government quickly declared an International Yoga Day observed by the United Nations back in 2014. The decision to organize an International Yoga Day is regarded as Prime Minister's Modi biggest Foreign Policy win.
Even there is a shift in India's stance on international issues. To elucidate, since 2014, India's friendship with Israel has reached new heights. Earlier, India maintained a neutral stance on the Israel-Palestine Conflict or abstained from voting on particular issues in United Nations General Assembly.
Recently, remarks made by BJP's spokesperson Nupur Sharma on Prophet Mohammad have not created domestic furor but have also drawn criticism from the Muslim World. Indeed, Sharma's comments forced Iran, Kuwait, and Qatar to call out the Indian Ambassador, While Saudi Arabia, the United Arb Nations, Gulf Corporation Council, and the Organisation of Islamic Corporation issued Condemnatory statements.
Ukraine-Russia has already led to an exponential rise in global oil prices. West Asia, India's Second biggest oil exporter, cannot afford to strain its relations with the Gulf. Moreover, Indians form the biggest diaspora in these countries, and the Indian government receives huge sums of money in the form of remittances from these countries. Therefore, India-West Asia ties hold great significance.
After analyzing India's form of secularism and the growth trajectory of Hindu Nationalism in politics, it can be concluded that Communalism has existed in India since Independence; however, the ruling government (Congress) never let it become mainstream.
Unfortunately, many regional and communal-based parties have gained popularity in the last decade. In 2014 a right-wing Hindu nationalistic party formed the government. This shows communal feelings existed in the general public for a very long time, even though at the periphery. Seeing this loophole and the opportunities provided by the Congress Party, the BJP managed to win the election and form the government. Moreover, after forming the government, the BJP formulated various institutional and structural changes, favoring the country's Hindu population. As a result of these policies, Indian society is much more polarized than it has ever been.
Seeing the rising Hindu Favouritism by the Indian government, the nation's foreign policy is witnessing a dramatic change, with potentially harmful consequences in the long run.
Nitya Shukla is a third-year student pursuing graduation in Multimedia and Mass Communication from Indraprastha College for Women, University of Delhi. A International Relations enthusiast with interest in South Asian History and Politics.
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