How Modi’s ultra-nationalism fails peace? |By Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi

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How Modi’s ultra-nationalism fails peace?

THE brutal attacks — by Hindu fundamentalists— on Muslims in India and the occupied-Kashmir during the holy month of Ramadan must draw attention of the international community regarding the ongoing Hindutva-spiked terrorism.

The ongoing horrible trends in Indian politics show that there is a growing confrontation between Modi’s populist ultra-nationalism and the norms of peaceful coexistence espoused by international law (glaringly reflected in Modi’s anti-Kashmiris, anti-Pakistan and anti-Muslim policies).

It is no surprise that since Narendra Modi came into power in 2014, the relations between the two nuclear armed South Asian states – India and Pakistan – have been potentially strained evidenced by the fact that for the last seven years there has been no peace dialogue between the two sides.

By definition, populism is a political strategy of appealing to “the people” in opposition to “elites” who are making the life of “the people” worse.

Like nationalism, populism is not inherently tied to a certain political ideology. Arguably, ‘’nationalism fits most naturally with a populist, conservative or right-wing political movement.

These movements maintain their grip on power by rallying people around a common (national) identity that is under threat from “others”—out-groups that are eroding the nation’s identity and threatening its sovereignty.

Civil society, mainstream media, judges, academics and the LGBTQI community, among others, are usual scapegoats.

And this “rally around the flag” mantra necessarily stokes nationalist sentiments’’. Conversely, “ultra-nationalism or extreme nationalism is an extreme form of nationalism in which a country asserts or maintains detrimental hegemony, supremacy, or control over other countries (usually through coercion) to pursue its interests.

Ultra-nationalism is an aspect of fascism. ” Make no mistake, populism takes a dangerous course, when it comes in conflict with the fundamental rights (constitutionalism), institutionalism and internationalism (international law).

This appraisal becomes more pertinent when we examine the latest trends in Indian diplomacy under the present regime vindicated by the fact that the cult of religious nationalism propelled by the Hindutva ideology reigns supreme in India’s diplomacy.

The Indian novelist Pankaj Mishra in his international publication argues, “…. Something is rotten in the state of democracy… The stink first became unmistakable in India in May 2014, when Narendra Modi, a member of an alt-right Hindu organisation inspired by fascists and Nazis, was elected prime minister”.

The veritable truth is that Modi got a massive support in 2014 through the RSS platform. Ideologically, the RSS has long promoted the view that Hindus, as a homogenous block must condemn secularists and minorities.

Undeniably, Modi’s surge of a hatred-driven Pakistan policy has killed the prospects of any peace discourse between the two states.

There are four major ultra-nationsilist policy drivers resulting in undermining the Indo-Pak peace process since Modi came into power in 2014.

First, Modi’s anti-Pakistan narrative, second Modi’s unjust Kashmir policy, third Modi’s cultural exclusivism of the Muslims in India, and fourth, India’s irresponsible conduct as a nuclear state.

First, from the very beginning of his coming into power, Modi fostered such a policy — breeding on antagonism and animosity towards Indian Muslims, Kashmiris and Pakistan — endorsed by a series of events: Kulbhushan Jadhav’s espionage activities in Balochistan; the Balakot attack in February 2019; and Muslim mass murder in Delhi in February 2020.

Needless to say, to build his populist ultra-nationalism via his narrative of bashing Pakistan remains the cornerstone of Modi’s policy.

According to the American sociologist, Bart Bonikowski, in the 2019 anthology when ‘Democracy Trumps Populism’, populism poses to be ‘anti-establishment’ and ‘anti-elite.

’ It can emerge from the right as well as the left, but during its most recent rise in the last decade, it has mostly come up from the right. ’’ ….

populism has profoundly emerged in “civilizationism,” a new form of nationalism that entails an emotionally charged division of society into “the people” versus “the Other.

” All too often, the divisive discourses and policies associated with civilizationalist populism produce intercommunal conflict and violence’’.

This is the core of Modi’s policies whose leitmotiv is to extend his fascist rule.

Second, Modi never officially condemned hate attacks-— on Muslims publicly, despite the murder of 36 Muslims across 12 India states— from 2015 to 2018.

All these events via a policy of religious and cultural segregation led to the widespread social legitimization of anti-Muslim prejudice thereby redirecting ‘’popular sentiment into a concentrated surge of resentment toward the Muslim minority’’.

By introducing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA-2019), Modi’s government has brazenly transgressed the principle of non-refoulment – a core principle of international law recognized in international human rights law, international refugee law, and also ‘’as part of customary international law.

’’ The principle prohibits a country from returning refugees to countries where they face a clear threat of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, and political opinion, among others.

Third, Modi undermined the independent status of Kashmir when in August 2019, he annulled Article 370 and 35-A and unjustly declared the occupied Kashmir a part of the Indian Union in February 2020.

This ultranationalist euphemism challenging the gravity of international law is highly reflected in Modi’s fundamentalist approach of predominating Indian national law and politics over international law.

The latest report released by the US State Department clearly accuses the Modi government of violating human rights in India, including extrajudicial killings by government agents, violence against Muslims and killings by government and non-government forces in occupied Kashmir.

As evidenced by Modi’s current visit to the occupied Kashmir that New Delhi’s any attempt to normalize its relations with Kashmiris, will never be successful.

And last but not the least, India’s unilateral nuclear policies are highly dangerous for regional peace, security and strategic stability.

India’s irresponsible attitude as a nuclear state is evidenced by India’s misdirected launch of a cruise missile into the Pakistan territory (09 March).

There is continuously a growing threat of nuclear terrorism in South Asia—as long as the Indian nuclear policies are controlled by the ultranationalist proponents of Hindutva — thereby representing a close nuclear ideological similarity between India and the North Korea (DPRK).

This is a serious caveat to be pondered by the international community. Nevertheless, currently PM Shehbaz Sharif has offered Narendra Modi to restart a peace dialogue with Pakistan, including the core issue of Kashmir.

But this peace offer could only be successful if the Indian policymakers reorient Modi’s policy vis-à-vis Pakistan in order to implement a policy of rationalization instead of saffronisation — objectively believing that producing a peaceful environment with India’s neigbours is the only pragmatic alternative “to transform its regional security condition and elevate its global standing”.

In a goodwill gesture, Pakistan has already extended its India-Afghanistan trade route facility via Wahga border.

—The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-international law analyst based in Pakistan, is member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies, also a member of Washington Foreign Law Society and European Society of International Law.