Pax Indica: Use religion in foreign policy

The missing ingredient in India’s soft power

“We have allowed,” today’s Pax Indica contends “our misunderstanding of secularism to keep religion out of the foreign policy toolkit.”

Excerpt:

No one bats an eyelid when someone argues that we should use democracy, free-market capitalism, socialism or “South-South solidarity” to promote India’s interests abroad. But mention religion and all sorts of people jump at you. The first objection you hear is that “it’s against our secular values”. This is absurd, as I’ve just argued, because secularism applies only to India’s internal affairs.

It is unacceptable for a country with one of the world’s largest Muslim populations, one with the longest experience of practising the Islamic faith in a multi-religious society to have no voice at all in one of the most important geopolitical dynamics of our time. India’s lack of Islamic soft power is a symptom of its, well, secular rejection of religious soft power. If we are serious about being a major global power, if soft power is to be something more than a feel-good story, and indeed for our own survival and security, we must dispassionately begin to make strategic use of our religion and culture. [Read the rest at Yahoo! India]

Let them go on pilgrimages

A state of moral welfare

The government of Karnataka, we are informed has “taken a decision to introduce a scheme to conduct pilgrimage tours for poor people.” People below the poverty line (BPL) qualify. (But the last time the Karnataka government tried to compile a list of BPL families 91% of them applied.) According to the New Indian Express, “the government will provide bus, boarding, lodging and darshan facilities at Kollur Mookambika Temple, Sri Krishna Temple at Udupi, Dharmasthala, Soudatti and other places at a subsidised cost.”

Here is a government that takes care of citizens’ welfare—in this world and the next, in this life and the next—for a trivial Rs 10 crore (presumably, every year). That’s not all. Should you residents of Karnataka find it extremely difficult to get a place to stay in those strange, foreign climes of neighbouring Andhra Pradesh state, relax in the knowledge that your government “has approved a plan for construction of a 500-room guesthouse and 25 cottages for VIPs at Tirumala in Tirupati.” This, for a trivial Rs 110 crore.

The floodgates have been opened wide.

Related Post: Andhra Pradesh’s state-subsidised tours to the holy land

The airman’s beard

Permitting beards, regulating lengths

Other than tradition, there is no good reason for a the Indian Air Force to impose a blanket ban on beards. Sikh officers in all three armed services and the police force are allowed to wear beards and turbans. Beard-keeping is a tradition in the Indian Navy, and naval officers are allowed to keep beards regardless of their religious persuasion. Now, if operational reasons demand it—say, it gets in the way—it makes sense to ask the concerned officers to trim or shave their beards off.

Just like the armed forces have a sensible policy on haircuts, uniform and other aspects of turnout, they could have the same for beards, mustaches, sideburns and eyebrows. It need not involve religion at all, as long as it involves common sense.

The airmen who are fighting to keep their beards on their jobs might be motivated by religion. But the decision to allow them to keep them need not.

And Italy should mind its own business

Indian Christians are Indians.

Italy’s Foreign Ministry, the Indian Express reports, “will summon India’s ambassador to demand ‘incisive action’ to prevent further attacks against Christians that have left 11 people dead in India so far, the government said on Thursday.” They even want the European Union to take up the matter.

Italy has no right to demand anything. It may be within its rights to express selective, biased, communal concern over the killings of one particular religious community in India, but “demand”? Well, the Indian ambassador in Rome could perhaps task his lieutenants to look up the English-Diplomatese dictionary for the equivalent of “stuff it”. Preferably, pleasantly. He could, if he would like to permit himself a moment of indiscretion, point out that Italy itself is hardly a safe place for Christian monks.

Related posts: French Sikhs are French; Malaysian Hindus are Malaysians

Sunday Levity: Two papal emissaries to China

They didn’t do too well

No, not quite laughing matter, but amusing nevertheless. Here are some excerpts from Harry Gelber’s readable account of China’s relations with the (western) World, from 1100 BC to the present:

One Christian embassy was entrusted to the Franciscan, John de Plano Carpini, a provincial of his order at Cologne. He set out in mid-April 1245, a mere eighteen years after Ghengis (sic) Khan’s death, carrying a letter from Pope Innocent IV. Carpini must have been a very brave man. He set out in his sixties, unfit, without knowledge of Asian languages and with no idea what his reception might be. Perhaps he would just have his head cut off by the first Mongol patrol he met? In the event he was hustled through Asia for weeks on horseback, to his total exhaustion, and arrived at the Mongol centre of Karakorum in time to witness the coronation of the new Great Khan, Guyuk, another of Ghengis’s grandsons. He delivered his letter and returned in 1247 with the Mongol response. Guyuk simply said:

‘… Thou, who art the great Pope, together with all the princes, come in person to serve us. At that time I shall make known all (our) commands…Now you should say with a sincere heart: “I will submit and serve you.” …If you do not observe God’s command, and if you ignore my command, I shall know you as my enemy. Likewise I shall make you understand…”

***

The empire continued to see itself as the centre of the civilised world, to which properly brought-up foreigners should pay tribute. The reception ceremonies which lay at the core of Chinese diplomacy, with everyone kow-towing in the presence of the emperor, remained more or less unchanged until the nineteenth century.

In 1687, five French fathers arrived and one of them managed to cure the (Manchu emperor) Kangxi of malarial fever by using quinine. In 1692 came an edict of toleration that allowed the Jesuits to build churches. When the Jesuits ran into trouble it was not with the Chinese but with other Christian missionaries. For instance, they claimed that it was entirely justifiable for missionaries in China to adopt any prudent adaptation to Chinese customs in order to advance the faith. That aroused strong opposition from Dominicans and Franciscans as well as groups in France itself.

That created serious trouble, for the emperor insisted, as he was bound to do, on respect for the traditional Chinese homage to Confucius and the rites of ancestor worship. He demanded that the missionaries regard these as civil and not religious ceremonies, and that Christian converts should continue to practise them. The Jesuits were willing to accept that, but the Dominicans and Franciscans were not. The disputation was sent to Rome. Pope Clement XI sent out Bishop Maillard de Tournon, to investigate. He arrived in 1705 and was granted several meetings with Kangxi which ended in total disagreement. The issue, as the Church saw it, had ultimately to do with papal supremacy in matters of religion. From that point of view, the Jesuit willingness to accept Kangxi’s opinions amounted to a critical weakening of the fundamental claims of Catholic Christianity. In 1715 came a papal bull banning the strategy of accommodation and Maillard forbade Catholic missionaries, on pain of excommunication, to obey the emperor in this matter. But there was no possibility that the emperor could tolerate that.

Kangxi’s response was to therefore expel anyone who did not sign a paper accepting his view. The emperor had Maillard imprisoned in Macao, where he died in 1707 (sic).[Harry G Gelber/The Dragon and the Foreign Devils, pp74-75 and 120-122]

Related Links: Kerry Brown’s review at the Asian Review of Books

The Paradox of the New Jihadi

The local manifestation of a global pattern

It is hard to say, but it may well be that the Indian media prevented the Indian Mujahideen from setting off their tenth bomb. The earliest reports of the contents of their email made them appear merely dangerously confused. But as we learn more about what exactly they said in their email, it is clear that their message was not merely incendiary. It is, as Praveen Swami puts it, a manifesto for the “Indian Mujahideen’s Declaration of Open War Against India. Declaration of Open War Against India.” [via Sandeep]

Because that document has profound implications for India’s psychological preparation for the long war ahead, it is incumbent on the media and the government to make the entire document public.

Mr Swami’s article makes it abundantly clear that pattern of contemporary global ‘jihad’ has manifested itself in India. Now, terrorist attacks by Islamic groups are nothing new for India—but in the past these were linked to the secessionist movement and later, the proxy war in Jammu & Kashmir; or any number of Pakistan’s extended jihadi apparatus, including the Dawood Ibrahim’s organised crime network. The difference between those attacks and the more recent ones is that whereas the former involved either foreigners or “hardcore” locals, the latter involve individuals and cells from a broader section of the India’s Muslim population.

Paradoxically, while many of the New Jihadis are home-grown, the reason for their energetic mobilisation is global. As the Indian Mujahideen say in their email, they are motivated by the belief that “we Muslims are one across the globe.” India, therefore, in the minds of the New Jihadis is but one front, their front, in the global jihad. While they cite the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the Godhra riots as the reasons for their attacks—which their apologists are quick to ingest—the fact that their violence is directed against the Indian people and the Indian state, including Muslims who disagree with their ideology, suggests that these grievances are either excuses or propaganda slogans for their primary agenda.

At this point, it is common for the Indian debate to be hung up on whether injustice leads to terrorism or the other way around, but because the New Jihadis see themselves as part of a global religious war, it is reasonable to conclude that no amount of ‘justice’—short of the impossible goal of reordering Indian society along their demands—will convince them to halt their struggle. Such implacability makes it extremely easy for foreign interests to use the New Jihadis to pursue their strategic objectives. The old jihadis, for instance, could be controlled strategically by squeezing Pakistan. This approach won’t work too well against the New Jihadis.

What this means is that the only course open to India is to fight the New Jihadis to the finish. They have already declared war on India. Now, it is not that the Indian government is not fighting—it is, and it has notched some notable gains against SIMI in recent years. But because the entire debate of counter-terrorism has been coloured in the tired old colours of “communalism”, “secularism” and “minorities”, the Indian government, and the political establishment, has failed to mobilise the nation for this war.

The ‘Prince’ of Arcot can’t be sued

For calling himself the ‘Prince’ of Arcot

A personality, styling himself the “Prince of Arcot” was recently in the news for launching the latest salvo in the game of competitive intolerance. He played a role in getting the police to shut down an exhibition showing the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb’s intolerant policies against his subjects.

It was Aurangzeb who instituted the Nawabdom of ArcoSee updates below. But Mohammed Abdul Ali, an Indian citizen who calls himself a Nawab and has a website that describes him as the present “Prince of Arcot”, is in violation of the Indian constitution.

Part III. Article 18.
Abolition of titles.-
(1) No title, not being a military or academic distinction, shall be conferred by the State.
[Constitution of India]

Mr Ali has violated my right to equality, a fundamental right, and your’s too, if you are an Indian citizen. He was already in violation of Article 18 before he abetted in the violation of Article 19 (freedom of expression). Retaining royal titles, shutting down those he disapproves, Mr Ali is acting as if India was still part of the Mughal empire.

But there is a prima facie case to take the case against the Nawab to the Supreme Court. It has original jurisdiction over violations of fundamental rights.

Third Update:

…Ali is the only royalty in India that’s being recognized by the government that pays for his upkeep and maintenance. [DesPardes]

Whew!

Second Update: The business of royal titles is unclear. The 1971 amendment abolished privy purses, privileges and titles of princes and their successors. But they continue to use their titles. And the Prince of Arcot is ranks as the equivalent of a minister in the Tamil Nadu cabinet. Now that flies against a lot more than equality. It must be some historical curiosity that has left us with this bizarre situation.

His Highness Nawab Mohammed Abdul Ali Azim Jah, the Prince of Arcot, is the only royal in India who was not affected by the abolition of privy purses. In the order of precedence, he enjoys the rank of cabinet minister of the state of Tamil Nadu.

The Nawab hails from a family that traces its lineage back to the second caliph, Umar ibn al-Khatt?b. The title ‘Prince of Arcot’, uniquely using the European style prince, was conferred on his ancestor by the British government in 1870 after the post of Nawab of the Carnatic (a title granted by the Mughal emperor) was abolished. [Wikipedia emphasis added]

Update:

The abolition of the privy purses, guaranteed by the Indian Constitution and the elimination of the princely order itself, became the policy of the Congress party. After a year-long battle, this was finally achieved by an amendment to the Constitution at the end of 1971.

Although some parties have attempted to portray the constitutional changes as an abolition of the princely order, this does not appear to be the legal position. The changes merely removed official recognition of the position of “ruler”, as defined by the 1950 Constitution, and enabled the ending of privy-purse payments. The amendments did not touch upon any aspects of the treaties and engagements made during the accession of the princely states, nor did they even address the matter of rights to styles and titles. Since then, there have been a number of decisions and cases of the Supreme Court of India, where the court itself has continued to use the styles and titles enjoyed by the princes, the nobility and members of their families. Some prominent examples are: “Colonel His Highness Sawai Tej Singhji, Maharaja of Alwar vs. The Union of India & Anr.” (1978), “H.H. Sir Rama Varma vs. C.I.T.” (1994), “The Commissioner of Income-Tax, Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal vs. H.H. Maharani Usha Devi” (1998), “Commissioner of Wealth Tax vs. Prince Muffakham Jah Bahadur Chamli Jan” (2000), “Her Highness Maharani Shantidevi P. Gaikwad vs. Savjibhai Haribhai Patel & Ors.” (2001), “Union of India & Another vs. Raja Mohammed Amir Mohammad Khan” (2005). It is hard to imagine that the highest court in the land would have accepted the use of these titles had they been contrary to law. [link]

Note: The original title of this post was “Why the ‘Prince of Arcot can be sued”. Well, he can’t be sued for calling himself the ‘Prince’. And he certainly won’t be sued for complaining about the Aurangzeb show.

Europe’s failure with multi-ethnicity

Pratap Bhanu Mehta on Kosovo

Mr Mehta’s op-ed in the Indian Express is brilliant. (Not only because it echoes most of the points made on this blog. Well, that too!)

As Michael Mann, in an important article on the “Dark Side of Democracy” had noted, modern European history has built in an irrevocable drive towards ethnic homogenisation within the nation state.

In the 19th century, there was a memorable debate between John Stuart Mill and Lord Acton. John Stuart Mill had argued, in a text that was to become the bible for separatists all over, including Jinnah and Savarkar, that democracy functions best in a mono-ethnic societies. Lord Acton had replied that a consequence of this belief would be bloodletting and migration on an unprecedented scale; it was more important to secure liberal protections than link ethnicity to democracy. It was this link that Woodrow Wilson elevated to a simple-minded defence of self-determination. The result, as Mann demonstrated with great empirical rigour, was that European nation states, 150 years later, were far more ethnically homogenous than they were in the 19th century; most EU countries were more than 85 per cent mono-ethnic.

Most of this homogeneity was produced by horrendous violence, of which Milosevic’s marauding henchmen were only the latest incarnation. This homogeneity was complicated somewhat by migration from some former colonies. But very few nation states in Europe remained zones where indigenous multi-ethnicity could be accommodated. It is not an accident that states in Europe that still face the challenge of accommodating territorially concentrated multi-ethnicity are most worried about the Kosovo precedent. The EU is an extraordinary experiment in creating a new form of governance; but Europe’s failures with multi-ethnicity may yet be a harbinger of things to come. Kosovo acts as a profound reminder of the failure of the nation state in Europe. [IE]

Swatantra and secularism: setting the record straight

S V Raju responds to Vir Sanghvi’s allegations

In this article in Hindustan Times, among other things, Vir Sanghvi clubs Jan Sangh and Swantantra Party together and claims that they “made the point that there was no harm in declaring that Hinduism was India’s state religion”. We asked S V Raju, an office-bearer of the erstwhile Swatantra Party, whether this was accurate.

Mr Raju’s response (via email):
During the life of the Swatantra Party there were many epithets hurled at us beginning with Nehru’s “Rich Man’s Party” and a “Party of Rajas and Maharajas” but none called us a a “Hindu” party much less one advocating a ‘Hindu State’. No one clubbed us with the Jan Sangh other than drawing attention to the fact that we had apparently similar economic policies. Even this was a half truth.

Though I was sure Sanghvi was talking nonsense about the Swatantra Party, I looked up some documents, including my Party’s three manifestos for the ’62, ’67 and ’71 elections and confirmed that none of them have we even remotely suggested support for a Hindu State.

It is a fact that both Rajaji and Masani used the word ‘secular’ very sparingly. Masani preferred to describe India as a ‘non-denominational democracy’ and Rajaji in an article on ‘The Secular State’ had to say this: “It has been repeatedly affirmed that when the Indian Constitution laid down that India shall be a secular state it was not intended that the State shall discourage or be hostile towards religion, but that what was intended was impartiality towards all creeds and denominations. It was a refusal to accept the theory that different religions made different nations or that the State should belong to one religion more than another.”

He wrote this on August 3, 1957 in Swarajya. This formed the basis of the Swatantra Party’s policy, founded two years later, on the relationship between religion and the State. Sanghvi’s hindsight is, to say the least, flawed.

From the archives: Any party you like. As long as it’s socialist (Mr Raju responds)

A lesson in opposites

Why doesn’t Karan Thapar dare to call anti-Hindutva by its name?

In an op-ed that wishes for Narendra Modi’s ‘sudden removal’, (via Offstumped) Karan Thapar writes:

Where does this leave the regional parties and the Left? They may retain their identity, even their present base, but they will have to line-up behind Modi or Sonia, in the saffron camp or the liberal/secular one. They may even have to submerge themselves within the broad appeal of the camp they belong to. [HT]

Now calling for parties to line-up against Modi is fine. But why the subterfuge? For neither Sonia Gandhi, nor the Left nor any of the regional parties are truly secular. And they are far from being “liberal”.

Secularism and Liberalism are lofty principles. The word that Thapar should use is anti-Hindutva. Will Thapar, Sonia Gandhi or anyone else in that camp dare declare that they are anti-Hindutva?