India’s new self-confident knock-knock at the doors of Europe
I wrote a blog entry a few weeks ago about the drive by India’s government, led by Narendra Modi, to reframe the country in terms of Hindutva, loosely translated as “Hinduness”. This new blog turns from India’s internal changes to its international outlook. However, first of all, with the coronavirus emergency currently raging in the country I add my concern to that of everyone in the world looking to those affected across India; I happen to have friends and several relatives by marriage in India who have all been touched by its onslaught.
My interest in India is therefore partly a natural curiosity about how geopolitics is changing, but also definitely personal. My parents-in-law are both of Goan Indian extraction and were born in the Portuguese Empire (Goa) and British Empire (Kenya) respectively. Like all Goans, they are naturally international in outlook but rooted in and proud of their hybrid Portuguese/Indian culture and, in their case, Catholic faith and practice. That makes their family back in India something of a vulnerable minority.
The previous blog (https://www.baloghblog.uk/post/what-the-acadogmatics-missed-about-india) considered the systematic recasting of India by the light of Hundutva, necessitating the ultimate excising of British colonial rule but also a similar filleting out of what it considers prior Islamic colonisation, the latter seen to be more contentious given India’s large Muslim population. This de-multiculturalisation remains a work in progress and may of course be challenged by an adverse national plebiscite, when it next takes place. In the meantime, my relatives and other members of the Christian religious minority in certain parts of the country are increasing nervous in the face of emboldened nationalist sentiment of a more monocultural tilt, all too often with good reason.
India is not only going through an internal transformation but also a realignment geopolitically. Long the darling of internationalist progressivists for its non-aligned, generally anti-Western position, latterly teaming up with Russia and China to promote a strong multi-polar counterblast to the US, India has now recognised the realpolitik necessity to move away from China and this has involved fresh overtures firstly to Paris, and now to London and other European capitals.
How though should this new India present its face to the world and, in particular, the erstwhile European colonial powers who remain global diplomatic powerhouses, notably Britain and France? Does it still leverage the anti-colonial sentiment to gain negotiating advantage or instead move beyond that with a modern self-confident self-image that is less defined in contrast to the “other” of its former imperial master? The sense I get is that there has been a tilt to the latter, though of course the stick of anti-colonialism remains not far from reach. The only people who seem to be upset by this new, less encumbered stance are International Relations academics stuck in the 20th century and some of India’s own political and bureaucratic establishment, still lingering in anti-British sentiment. But many are pragmatic in seeing this as new way as the best path forward.
One particularly interesting recent article about this realignment, on which I have drawn for my own thoughts, is that of C. Raja Mohan on the widely respected Foreign Policy platform entitled India Gives Up Its Anti-Colonial Obsessions and Embraces Europe and it is well worth a read at https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/05/18/india-china-narendra-modi-johnson-britain-europe-eu-anti-colonialism-strategy-geopolitics/.
Desperate as it may seem at the moment, I suspect the coronavirus impact will not stop Modi’s government from winning the next election, and I expect Hindutva internally and its projection internationally to continue. I trust that the strengthening of true peer-to-peer diplomatic relationships, linked to security and trade agreements, will naturally ensure India protects its religious minorities; the hope has to be that its self-image will engender recognition and respect to the extent that it does not become intent on monocultural hegemony.