As India continues to navigate its role on the global stage, it must balance its commitment to its cultural heritage with the need to uphold its reputation as a diverse, inclusive, and forward-thinking nation.
India’s commitment to secularism and pluralism was enshrined in its constitution, reflecting the vision of its founding leaders. For decades, India stood as a symbol of unity in diversity, admired worldwide for its ability to harmoniously accommodate diverse religions and cultures. This foundation has contributed significantly to India’s global image as a multicultural and inclusive nation. However, with Narendra Modi’s rise to power in 2014, there was a noticeable shift in India’s political landscape. Modi’s association with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), both closely aligned with Hindu nationalist ideology, raised domestic and international concerns. India’s Hindu nationalist diplomacy has led to tensions with neighbouring countries, particularly Pakistan and Bangladesh, which have significant Muslim populations. These tensions have hindered regional cooperation and stability, impacting India’s ability to play a more prominent role in South Asian affairs.
One of the most evident impacts of Modi’s tenure has been the erosion of secularism in India. The Modi government’s promotion of Hindu symbols and practices has raised questions about the nation’s commitment to secularism. A Pew Research Centre survey carried out in 2017 found that 60% of Indians believed that the government should favour one religion, indicating a shift in public sentiment towards religious favouritism. The rise of Hindu nationalist rhetoric coincided with increased communal tensions within India. The Global Terrorism Database (GTD) reported a significant increase in religiously motivated terrorist incidents in the country from 2014 onwards. Russell would likely disapprove of the polarizing effects of such policies, as communal strife threatens social harmony and damages India’s image as a nation where people of all faiths can co-exist peacefully.
Many critics believe in the importance of tolerance and free speech. However, India has witnessed incidents of stifling dissent, censorship, and attacks on journalists and activists. According to Reporters Without Borders, India ranks 142nd out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index for 2021, reflecting concerns about freedom of the press and expression. India’s foreign relations have not been immune to the effects of Modi’s Hindu nationalist diplomacy. In 2019, India faced international criticism for its handling of the Kashmir issue. Several countries, including the United States, raised concerns about human rights violations and restrictions on movement and communication in the region. Such issues have strained India’s relationships with its global partners.
Salis Malik is a freelance journalist and columnist based in Islamabad. He can be reached on Facebook @salismalik7777
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