Driven by the extremist ideology of Hindutva, India has descended into a state of growing intolerance and bigotry. Hindutva, which is espoused by the Hindu militant organization, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and India’s ruling party, BJP, aims at defining the Indian culture exclusively in terms of Hindu values. The exclusive character of Hindutva assumes even more ominous proportions because of the oppressive nature of the Hindu social system which divides even its own followers into castes prohibiting vertical mobility. Those born in the lower strata of the Hindu society are condemned to accept their exploitation at the hands of the people in the higher castes without protest and any possibility of improvement in their lot. The fate of the followers of other religions would obviously be even worse than that of the people in the lower strata of the Hindu society. The lethal combination of Hindutva with India’s expansionist and hegemonic strategic goals in South Asia carries dangerous implications for Pakistan’s security and economic well-being, which our leaders and policy makers can ignore at their peril.

The strong commitment to Hindutva on the part of both RSS with deep roots in the Hindu society and BJP, the current ruling party in India, calls for a clear understanding of this ideology and its implications. The concept of Hindutva was elaborated by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in his pamphlet, “Hindutva: Who is a Hindu”. According to him, Hindutva requires love for Hindu civilization and values and, as mentioned above, the interpretation of the Indian culture exclusively in terms of Hindu values. The second RSS supreme leader, Madhav Sadashiv Golwalker, elaborated the implications of Hindutva for non-Hindu communities in India in the following manner in his work, “We, or Our Nationhood Defined” published in 1938:

“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.”

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Considering PM Modi’s personal bigotry and anti-Muslim bias as reflected in the large scale massacre of Muslims in Gujrat in 2002 under his Chief Ministership, his life-long membership of RSS, and BJP’s close links with RSS, the present BJP government’s total embrace of Hindutva should not have come as a surprise to keen observers of the Indian political scene. This development was like the writing on the wall once the Indian voters elected the Modi-led BJP government into power in India in 2014. Modi’s re-election as the Prime Minister last year with increased majority in the Indian Parliament emboldened Modi and his BJP colleagues in the implementation of the Hindutva philosophy. The increased support for the BJP government also showed that the growing tilt in the Hindu society in India towards religious extremism, intolerance and bigotry was not an occasional and short-term deviation from the concept of a secular India. Rather, it represents a long-term trend towards Hindu bigotry with dangerous implications for the religious minorities in India including Muslims and Christians as well as for peace and stability in South Asia.

The growing sway of Hindutva has sounded death knell to the dream of a multi-cultural India in which people belonging to different religions and cultures could live in peace and harmony with one another. The increasing incidents of Hindu bigotry and persecution of minorities, especially the Muslims, are frequent reminders of the emergence of an intolerant India. They are likely to aggravate social tensions among the followers of different religions and cultures, thus, encouraging fissiparous tendencies in the country. The Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens are vivid examples of the increasing intolerance and anti-Muslim bias in India.

The rising tide of Hindu chauvinism in India poses a particularly serious threat to Pakistan’s security because of the way India’s strategists and policy makers look at it. C. Raja Mohan, a well-known Indian security analyst and a former member of India’s National Security Advisory Board, in an article entitled “India and the Balance of Power” in the Foreign Affairs issue of July-August, 2006 made the point that the creation of Pakistan was a major obstacle in the realization of India’s grand strategic goals. According to him, this factor left India with a persistent conflict with Pakistan and an internal Hindu-Muslim divide, separated India from Afghanistan and Iran, and created profound problems for India’s engagement with the Muslim Middle East because of Pakistan’s character as an Islamic state. It is not surprising, therefore, that India has exhibited abiding hostility towards Pakistan since its independence.

The security threat posed by India because of its innate hostility towards Pakistan is exacerbated by India’s far-reaching strategic ambitions. As noted by well-known international scholars like Henry Kissinger, India is striving to establish its dominant position in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region. C. Raja Mohan also stressed in his above quoted article that India has sought primacy and a veto over the actions of outside powers in its immediate neighbourhood. Thus, the achievement of hegemony in South Asia remains India’s main strategic goal. The only country in the region which stands in the way of the fulfillment of the Indian strategic ambitions is Pakistan. This leads to two obvious conclusions: it would be India’s enduring strategic aim to reduce Pakistan to the status of a satellite; secondly, as long as India continues to pursue that goal and as long as Pakistan resists India’s hegemonic ambitions in the region, there would be structural stresses and strains in relations between Pakistan and India over and above those caused by outstanding disputes like Kashmir, Sir Creek, Siachin, sharing of river waters, etc. Real friendship between the two countries will remain elusive until the unlikely event of a radical change for the better in the ground realities.

Pakistan, therefore, must be prepared for a prolonged period of tensions and strife with India because of the lethal combination of India’s hegemonic designs, growing Hindu bigotry, and outstanding disputes especially the Kashmir dispute. It is a marathon, not a 100-meter sprint. Recent actions by India aimed at annexing Jammu and Kashmir in a blatant violation of applicable UN Security Council resolutions reflect not only the bigotry of the Hindu majority in India but also the hardline approach and the muscular style of diplomacy that New Delhi is likely to employ in dealing with Pakistan in the years to come. Therefore, the possibility of occasional low intensity armed conflicts, exchange of artillery fire or even the exchange of limited air strikes cannot be ruled out. However, as long as Pakistan and India maintain a credible nuclear deterrent, an all-out war between them does not seem likely.

Sun Tzu, the famous Chinese strategist, recommended a long time ago that supreme excellence lay in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting. America and the rest of the West implemented this principle of grand strategy to defeat the Soviet Union in the Cold War without fighting a war. India can also be expected to place reliance on non-kinetic means of warfare for defeating Pakistan. For this purpose, India will focus mainly on destabilizing Pakistan politically and weakening it economically. Pakistan’s current political instability and economic weakness, therefore, constitute its Achilles’ heel in the long-term contest with India and a source of acute national insecurity. Pakistan must overcome these shortcomings while maintaining a credible security deterrent.