Ram Madhav's Akhand Bharat and Modi’s Pakistan policy

India's intelligence activity is outside of checks and balances of democratic governance. The generation of instability in Pakistan can then be seen as the initial part of the Ram Madhav’s way to Akhand Bharat.

In his appearance at Al Jazeera’s Head to Head programme with Mehdi Hasan, Ram Madhav has let on that the RSS agenda is Akhand Bharat. By way of explanation, he had it that this would be a cultural or civilisational reunion, a willing one and not one by force or conquest.

While on the surface there is little to take umbrage in such an aspiration of regional integration, the devil as they say is in the details.

Indeed, this analyst had made a case for a regional union in an earlier piece in this publication, arguing that this would be beneficial not only for the larger good, but also for Muslim security. Security in numbers would be feasible with the addition of Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslims sharing a regional affinity and affiliation with India’s Muslims; and therefore restoring the original balance between the communities in the subcontinent. Hindus for their part would be preserved from a takeover by the ideology of Hindutva, that, according to Madhav posits, ‘one culture, one people, one nation’, putting paid to the time-honoured notion of ‘unity in diversity’.

Since the RSS is the power behind the ruling party in the government today, it can be understood that the government would be doing its bidding on this front too. Such action need not be up front and may be sequenced behind other priorities such as ushering in ‘acche din’, but cannot be overlooked as a potential lodestar for the government.

The RSS is already clearly at it in what is called its ‘Semitisation’ of Hinduism. The emphasis on the Bhagwad Gita; the return of Brahmanical rituals which even foreign visiting heads of state are now subjected to on the banks of the Ganga; turning up of bricks at Ayodhya to provide Hinduism its very own Mecca; return to the ‘give us three mosques’ formula through their Rasputin, Subrahmanyam Swamy, etc. are examples.

Ram Madhav takes this a step further in his sometimes comical performance at the Oxford Union.

With an India centralized along Hindutva lines, the next step would be gaining control of the subcontinent. To Madhav, it would be a return to 1200 years ago. He referred to the manner the Balochis and Sindhis allegedly view Pakistan. It appears he believes they are ripe for insurrection, leading to a break up of Pakistan. This would then perhaps yield up the Akhand Bharat of his dreams. Presumably, the Hindus united under a saffron flag and Muslims ethnically at each other’s throats, would enable Akhand Bharat.

It is apparent that there are differing versions of Akhand Bharat. One is institutional along the lines of the European Union in which the sovereign states get together voluntarily to increase their collective prosperity and security through agreed upon rules, laws, procedures and institutions. There is little to argue in this, with SAARC serving as a proto South Asian Union for the future. The second version is that of the RSS as articulated by Ram Madhav, in which accession to an Indian (read Hindu) dominated region state is brought about by the dismemberment (for a second time round following the first one in 1971) of Pakistan.

Given that the ruling party in the government may be sharing the RSS view, if covertly, it bears discerning if this is so and to what extent. There is little doubt that the SAARC is currently the least effective regional organisation in the world and South Asia is the least integrated region. The India-Pakistan rivalry is at the root of this, and much of the blame can easily be laid at Pakistan’s door. For instance, it denies India MFN status; prevents its access by land to Afghanistan; and is the fount of terrorism in the region. India for its part is the core of South Asia and not wanting to be ‘big brother’ allows for a leisured pace in regional integration, lest any haste on its part is misinterpreted by its smaller neighbours who may then renege or bandwagon with China. Nevertheless, India is staying the course, best evidenced by the possibility of Mr. Modi heading for Islamabad come September for the SAARC summit, given life by his flying visit to Lahore for Nawaz Sharif last Christmas. That is indeed the way to go in so far as a measured way to a regional identity goes.

However, in case this is complicated by Hindutva’s ideological shadow over India’s motives, reaching further would be unlikely.

To what extent is there an ideological shadow over India’s Pakistan policy? From the contretemps surrounding the Pathankot terror attack early this month, it is not entirely certain that the latest twist in India’s Pakistan policy is uncontaminated by ideology. While well wishers of peace would like to believe that Mr. Modi’s initiative is in the tradition of Vajpayee’s politically bold reaching out, the initiative must nevertheless be subject to hard-headed analysis as to motives, next steps and potential outcomes.

Mr. Modi has gone overboard in courting Mr. Sharif. In doing so he is opening up a schism between ‘official’ Pakistan and its ‘deep state’. Whereas in this round of détente between India and Pakistan, there are all indications that the Pakistani army is on board, the pace of this and seizure of initiative by Mr. Modi on this would lend it pause. In India’s establishment version of the Pathankot terror episode, the deep state has struck back. Using the opportunity, India at the time of writing has indicated that it would not proceed with the foreign secretary talks until Pakistan cracks down on the Jaish-e Mohammad, which India says is behind the attack. This tough line enables India to open up yet another schism in Pakistan, between its ‘deep state’ and ‘rogue’ elements out to wreck the emerging bonhomie with India. India in one fell swoop has created two schisms between three actors.

If Pakistani hardliners are to be believed, India is behind some of the disaffection in Baluchistan and even behind some of the terrorism Pakistan has been subject to. One Pakistani analyst outshouted even Arnab Goswami to claim that the handlers of the terrorists who attacked the school in Peshawar spoke in Hindi.

In so far as all this is ‘normal’ intelligence work and is to pay back Pakistan in its own coin, it is unexceptionable. However, in so far as India’s intelligence activity is outside of checks and balances of democratic governance, such as parliamentary and executive scrutiny, then there is a problem on hand. The generation of instability in Pakistan can then be seen as the initial part of the Ram Madhav’s way to Akhand Bharat. Indeed, India’s proximity with Israel, set to grow with Mr. Modi’s impending visit there close on the heels of the President’s last year, indicates that India is borrowing from Israel’s strategy copybook of keeping its periphery in turmoil for its own security. While Israel is using the Israeli lobby in the US to make US continue generating instability across the Middle East, India is relying on its own resources. A Pakistan down the tube is in this perspective taken as in India’s interest since it would leave India without a regional irritant, if not a strategic competitor, to deal with.

This implies both Ayodhya and Lahore are interlinked. Hindutva renders India’s domestic politics and foreign policy seamless. Even as India is transformed by Hindutva in its own image, South Asia is made ripe for a takeover by such an India. Neither of the two possibilities – increasingly distinct by the day – is heartening. Though Ram Madhav has raised a spectre, he needs being thanked for prematurely letting the cat out of bag.

The author blogs at

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