Rohingyas: An Opportunity for South East Asian Supremacy of India Lost by BJP’s Impregnated Hate Dogma

The present government just seems stripped of this political cognition. Congress under Indira did have the mettle to churn out an impending neighborhood crisis into India’s favor back in 1971. Does BJP under Modi have the spine and mettle to do the same?

Two negatives never make a positive; and this may be a mathematical paradox for students of political science and international relations. The present government has tried to do just the same on the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar – taking two negative stands to make things positive. southLive reports that “Just two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Myanmar in which he refrained from condemning the ongoing persecution against Rohingya Muslims in the country, India voiced its concern over violence in Rakhine.” This statement is not a posit empathy towards the Rohingyas, as it may seem, but has been made under pressure from Dhaka – as the SouthLive report states –  “The sudden shift in the Indian stand came just a day after Dhaka envoy met Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar demanding to put pressure on Myanmar government to end violence in Rakhine thus stop the flow of Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh.”

Ever since India gained independence from the British rule, it has maintained its position as a regional superpower and an advocate of justice in the South East Asian region. There have been numerous instances where, diplomatic makeovers apart, India has not shied away from using force to maintain this supremacy and advocacy of justice. The most glaring example being that of 1971, when India stood in support of justice for the then East Pakistan. Sashanka S. Banerjee, posted as a diplomat in the Indian mission in London in 1971-72, writes in his article that “For India, which supported the Bangladesh liberation struggle with its heart and soul, his execution would be an unmitigated disaster, a dream shattered. So it was in India’s interests to leave no stone unturned to save Mujib’s life, for his sake, for the sake of his family, for the sake of Bangladesh and for its own sake.” The tale that Banerjee unfolds in his article ardently deciphers how diplomacy and military power were combined to foster a solution for East Pakistan. However, this positioning of India as a superpower and advocate of justice in the region is slowly wearing off, be it Doklam, Myanmar, or Pakistan.

That Congress under Indira Gandhi was a masterpiece of diplomacy in international relations that India ever witnessed is an undeniable fact (although I do not love Congress for this by any means). This was largely because Jawaharlal Nehru had an ardent first-hand experience of diplomacy during the struggle for independence – and Congress was, and remains, a cult unsociably nurtured by the Nehru legacy. An incisive example of this diplomatic masterpiece is found in Indira Gandhi, who was faced with a precarious situation of bargaining for either Kashmir or the life of Mujibur Rahman against the 93,000 Pakistani prisoners of war. Weighing both the matters, she chose to secure Mujibur Rahman rather than bargaining for Kashmir, as Sashanka S. Banerjee states in the same article – “This proved to be a controversial decision, with many in India questioning why Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had squandered a golden opportunity to bargain with Pakistan and settle the Kashmir problem on India’s terms.”

What Banerjee didn’t state is that Congress or Indira Gandhi would probably never have wanted to bargain for Kashmir at the least; since it needed an ongoing political agenda to maintain its reign and hegemony back in India as well. She failed in reserving that hegemony though, which is evident from the 1975 Emergency. Despite this, Indira did have the gusto and political cognition to employ the Bangladesh Liberation War to the diplomatic, political, and international advantage of India. As an epilogue to the 1971 Indo-Pak War, we may note that Pakistan never remained the same after December 16, 1971, one of the many forbearing “achievements” of Indira. However, neither did India!

The present government just seems stripped of this political cognition. While World Parliament Forum agreed to the Bali Declaration, India has refused to be a part of it. One of the reasons cited for the refusal is – “The proposed reference to the violence in Rakhine State in the declaration was considered as not consensus-based and inappropriate.” This was the apparent reason why Prime Minister Narendra Modi had deplored “‘violence’ against security forces” during his recent visit to Myanmar, but had refrained from denouncing the brutal attacks against Rohingya Muslims. The conceited reason may well be the fact that the present political cognition of the Indian polity is exclusively impregnated with hatred towards specific communities (Muslims, Dalits, Christians…) rather than being molded by radiant diplomacy and perceptive international relations standards.

However, this impregnation of hatred has made a mockery of India in terms of its international relations standoffs under the present government once again – the previous one being Doklam. While on the one hand, India refused to acknowledge the abject crisis and genocide being faced by the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, it had to eat away its own words under pressure from none other than Bangladesh, a country that owes its chronicle of establishment to India. With all its dirty linen, Congress under Indira did have the mettle to churn out an impending neighborhood crisis into India’s favor back in 1971. Does BJP under Modi have the spine and mettle to do the same?

Sharjeel Ahmad is MBA and an Economics graduate. He is an instructional designer by profession and is presently based in Saudi Arabia. He has keen interest in social, economic, and political issues facing Indian populace, with special emphasis on minority issues.

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