The Modi juggernaut tore through the defenses of its political opponents scoring a landslide victory and a thumping majority of seats in the Lok Sabha in the recent Indian elections. With 282 seats out of the total of 543, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Narendra Modi alone is in a position to form the next Indian government, thus, obviating the need for difficult compromises that go with coalition governments. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) including such allies as Shiv Sena has a comfortable majority of 336 seats in the Lok Sabha allowing Narendra Modi to make difficult policy choices and push through programmes in implementation of his campaign promises.

The ruling Congress party was decimated with a tally of 44 seats, a quarter of its strength in 2009 and the lowest in its history. The party’s lowest tally previously was in 1999 when it had won 114 seats. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance was restricted to only 58 seats. The representation of the Muslims in the Lok Sabha has been reduced to 24 seats (about 4.4 % of the total number) as against 30 seats in the outgoing House, the lowest since 1952. It is worth noting that the Muslims constitute about 15% of the Indian population.

The significance of the Hindu nationalist BJP victory can be gauged from the fact that it is the first time since 1984 that a single party has won a majority on its own in the Indian polls. The election results thus signalled an emphatic rightward shift in the Indian body politic. For understanding the implications of Narendra Modi’s landslide victory one must try to understand the philosophy of BJP and the character of the man who is going to lead it against the historical background of Pakistan-India relations and India’s strategic goals in South Asia. These factors must be juxtaposed with Pakistan’s own strategic goals and compulsions to reach useful guidelines for Pakistan’s policy makers.

BJP, a right-wing Hindu nationalist party, is deeply committed to Hindutva ideology or the revival of Hindu nationalism. According to Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who first coined the term Hindutva in his 1923 pamphlet, “Hindutva: Who is a Hindu?”, the concept applied to all movements committed to the cause of Hindu nationalism. In essence, Hindutva seeks to define Indian culture in terms of Hindu values and considers the entire Indian sub-continent as the homeland of the Hindus. It also emphasizes that the Hindus were oppressed by invading forces like the Muslims and calls for the reversal of the influences resulting from such intrusions.

Hindutva is also the guiding ideology of the Sangh Parivar, which includes Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a paramilitary Hindu nationalist organization, besides BJP and others. What it implies for the Muslims and other minorities in India can be gauged from the following quotation from the 1938 work of Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, the second RSS supreme leader, entitled “We, or Our Nation Defined”: “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.”

The demand for Pakistan as a separate homeland to enable the Muslims to lead their lives in accordance with the tenets of Islam and their distinct cultural values was their legitimate response to such bigotry which was responsible for the communalization of politics in South Asia rather than the other way round as another writer would have us believe in these pages a few days ago. RSS after all, was established by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar in 1925 much before the Muslims voiced the demand for Pakistan. Be that as it may, there is no justification to deny the minorities in Pakistan their fundamental rights as enshrined in our constitution.

Narendra Modi has been a member of RSS since 1971 and is fully committed to its Hindutva ideology. The principles of this ideology were at display in the large scale massacres of the Muslims in Gujrat in 2002 when Modi was its Chief Minister. Since then and throughout his recent election campaign, Modi has refrained from expressing any remorse on those killings for which some analysts hold him directly responsible. His hands would also be tied by the commitments in BJP’s election manifesto to build the Ram temple on the site of the Babri mosque, abrogate Article 370 in the Indian constitution which grants special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir, and review India’s nuclear doctrine. These commitments carry the seeds of internal strife and increased tensions with Pakistan.

There is thus little possibility of a radical transformation of Narendra Modi who is deeply steeped in the politics and philosophy of RSS. He is unlikely to adopt an inclusive and moderate style of politics. In short, whereas Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the right man in the wrong party, Narendra Modi from Pakistan’s point of view is the wrong man in the wrong party. Therefore, he is likely to adopt a more hardline approach in dealing with Pakistan than that adopted by the preceding Manmohan Singh government.

It is true that the commitment of both Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif to the development of India and Pakistan respectively provides a common ground on which the two sides can try to build bridges of mutual understanding. Both Pakistan and India need peace in the neighbourhood to enable them to focus their energies on economic progress. We must keep in mind, however, that there is a built-in and long-term tension in Pakistan-India relations because of the pursuit by India of hegemonic designs in South Asia and outstanding disputes like Kashmir. These factors have prevented steady improvement of the bilateral relationship in the past and are likely to do so in the future also. Any dramatic breakthrough during Nawaz Sharif’s visit or even later can be safely ruled out particularly if one takes into account Narendra Modi’s past record and BJP’s election manifesto and commitment to Hindutva.

We must, therefore, maintain our guard while avoiding any adventurous or provocative activity. In particular, we must establish a firm grip on the various Jihadi organizations to prevent them from aggravating tensions between Pakistan and India. Above all, we must strengthen internal unity and stability, accelerate economic growth, and maintain our security deterrent. In other words, while exploring all avenues of improvement of relations with India, we must remain prepared for the worst. It is a pity that at this stage when we need national unity more than anything else, we see the unedifying spectacle of the civil-military tussle once again.

The writer is a retired ambassador and the president of the Lahore Council for World Affairs.

javid.husain@gmail.com