The landslide victory of Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the latest Indian elections has demonstrated conclusively once again the growing appeal of Hindutva or the extremist version of Hindu nationalism within the Indian electorate. The BJP election campaign cleverly exploited deep-seated sentiments among the vast majority of the Hindus in India for defining Indian nationalism in accordance with Hindu culture and values. Modi played on these sentiments and the Pulwama attack to whip up an anti-Pakistan and anti-Muslim frenzy as part of his election rhetoric. As a result, BJP was able to increase its seats from 282 in 2014 to 303 in 2019 giving it a comfortable majority in the Lok Sabha with 543 seats. Its share of votes increased to 37.4% as against 31.3% in 2014. The number of seats held by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in the Lok Sabha increased to 353 with a vote share of 45% compared to 38% in 2014. The final voter turnout was estimated to be 67.11%, up from 65.95% in 2014. Thus, by any yardstick Modi-led BJP secured a convincing victory in the Indian elections. On the other hand, the Indian National Congress, which advocated a moderate and secular approach to politics in India, secured just 52 seats with only 19.49 of the total votes cast. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance was able to win 91 seats in the Lok Sabha.

The election results were a personal victory for Narendra Modi and his ideology rooted in Hindu extremism. The economic achievements of his government in the form of a high GDP growth rate (about 7%), low inflation rate (4%) and GST reform, and a muscular style of diplomacy as reflected in his bellicose rhetoric and a hardline approach in dealing with Pakistan also played their role in ensuring the BJP victory. The outcome of the election delivered a serious, perhaps a fatal, blow to the ideal of a secular, liberal and multi-cultural India which had been espoused by the Indian National congress and its leaders like Gandhi, Nehru and Indira Gandhi. Henceforth, Indian culture would be defined in terms of Hindu values leaving little space for the cultural values of various minorities like the Muslims (about 15% of the population) and Christians. The election results are, thus, bad news for these minorities in India, especially the Muslims, which are likely to face growing discrimination and social persecution at the hands of the extremist Hindus.

Considering that Modi has been a life-long member of RSS, a militant Hindu organization allied with BJP, it would be worthwhile reminding ourselves what Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, the second supreme RSS leaders, wrote in 1938 about the desired shape of things in a Hindu-dominated India:

“The non-Hindu people of Hindustan must either adopt Hindu culture and language, must learn and respect and hold in reverence the Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but of those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture…..In a word, they must cease to be foreigners, or may stay in the country wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment---not even citizens’ rights.” (“Pakistan and a World in Disorder---A Grand Strategy for the Twenty-First Century”, p.78)

The mix of growing Hindu extremism and the existence of large religious and cultural minorities in India becomes explosive considering the fact that while Islam teaches human equality and brotherhood, Hinduism is based on the impregnable division of the society into castes barring vertical mobility. Those born in the lower strata of the society are condemned to accept their exploitation at the hands of the people in the higher castes without protest and any possibility of improving their lot. The untouchables, as the name suggests, are at the lowest rung of the society, destined to lead a life of abject misery and deprivation. The followers of other religions can expect even worse treatment as made clear by Golwalkar. This is the direction that India is likely to take in the foreseeable future if the tidal wave of Hindu extremism continue to sweep across the land.

India has come out in its true colours as elaborated by me in my above mentioned book published by Palgrave Macmillan from New York in 2015 after the last Indian elections. The latest election results have merely reconfirmed that reality. With these results, the dream of a liberal, secular and multi-cultural India is virtually dead for the foreseeable future and the civilizational gulf between Pakistan and India has widened. The sooner our leaders and policy makers recognize this reality and its dangerous implications for Pakistan, the better it would be for our national security and economic well-being.

Modi’s landslide victory at the polls is likely to encourage him in the pursuit of hegemonic and bellicose policies and a muscular style of diplomacy in dealing with Pakistan. It appears unlikely that PM Modi would soften his policies on the resumption of Pakistan-India dialogue or on the resolution of outstanding issues between the two countries such as Kashmir, Siachin, sharing of the river waters, and Sir Creek. The Modi government so far has refused to resume a comprehensive dialogue with Pakistan despite several overtures by PM Imran Khan, the latest being a letter of felicitations sent by him to PM Modi on his re-election inviting India to resume dialogue with Pakistan on contentious issues. A positive response from India to these overtures is still awaited. Meanwhile, India continues to foment terrorism in Pakistan to destabilize the country and commit atrocities against unarmed and peaceful Kashmiris for demanding the exercise of their right to self-determination. Following Pulwama, the Indian air strike at Balakot on 25 February, which led to an appropriate response from PAF leading to the downing of two Indian Air Force MIG 21 aircraft and the capture of an Indian air force pilot, was an indication of the Modi government’s proclivity to resort to the use of force, whether on LOC, in Kashmir or otherwise, in pursuit of its hegemonic and expansionist agenda.

Pakistan must continue its efforts for the resumption of Pakistan-India dialogue and the normalization of relations between the two countries while remaining firm on principles of sovereign equality and mutual respect and safeguarding its national interests. However, we need not kowtow in front of India in our quest for the resumption of Pakistan-India dialogue. We must not overlook the lesson of history that a policy of appeasement toward an expansionist power merely whets its appetite for more, thereby precipitating precisely the crisis that it is supposed to prevent.

It is also worth underscoring that in view of the growing Hindu extremism in India, its hegemonic ambitions, and the widening civilizational gulf between Pakistan and India, India poses a long-term threat to Pakistan’s security and economic well-being. Pakistan can successfully face this threat only by strengthening national unity, enhancing political stability in the country, strengthening the democratic process, accelerating economic growth, and overcoming the menaces of terrorism and religious extremism while maintaining a credible security deterrent at the lowest level of armed forces and armaments. It is a pity that at this critical juncture in Pakistan’s history, the country has been destabilized politically and its economic problems have been aggravated with the slowing down of economic growth and increase in inflation and unemployment levels. Unless checked and reversed, these developments have the potential to cause grave damage to Pakistan’s security and economic progress.