India Will Not Change its Policies toward Muslims

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Interview with Pir-Mohammad Mollazehi
Expert on Indian Subcontinent & Middle East Isuues

Indian National Congress Party has been holding the political power in India for many long years. This time, however, and during the recent general elections in India, the party, which is currently being headed by Sonia Gandhi, failed to win a big chunk of the power pie. On the other hand, Narendra Modi, the leader of the victorious Bharatiya Janata Party, has won the people’s votes mostly as a result of the populist rhetoric that he used in his election campaign. In the following interview, the outlook for India’s developments and future foreign policy approach of this country have been discussed with Pir-Mohammad Mollazehi, an expert on the Indian Subcontinent.

Q: Narendra Modi is known in the political sphere of India as an Islamophobic politician who took no positive action to stop the mass killing of Muslims in the incidents that happened in 2002 [when he was chief minister of Gujarat]. Do you really think that he has anti-Islamic views?

A: When he was the chief minister of Gujarat, he did not react in any way to the mass killing of Muslims by certain extremist groups and he has been even sued in regard with this case. The complainants argue that at the time of the killings, he was heading the local government in Gujarat as well as the police and security services. However, Modi did nothing to stop that massacre. As a result of this issue, many people believe that he has anti-Islamic ideas. However, it should be noted that under the present circumstances, he will be the prime minister of the entire India. Therefore, issues that were stressed on during election campaigns in order to win the votes of the opposite parties, especially the extremist groups, have lost their importance now. It is very unlikely that the government of Mr. Modi will move in a direction that would further deepen the existing divides between Muslims and Hindus because here, the national identity of India as a whole is at stake. I personally believe that despite the negative viewpoint that the Indian Muslims hold on Modi, allegations about him being an anti-Islamic politician cannot be trusted very much. At the same time, let’s not forget that many Indian Muslims have also voted for him during the recent elections. In fact, people know that his election will make no basic change in the general and strategic policies that the Indian government pursues with respect to Muslims, who make up about 180 million of the country’s total population. This is true because the new politicians cannot jeopardize the national security of India as a result of certain pressures that are put on them or for the sake of publicity. On the whole, I am of the opinion that the allegations that this person will act against Muslims once he is in power should not be highlighted anymore because there is no objective evidence to show that this is the case.

Q: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which was the most important political rival for the ruling Congress Party, has managed to grasp the power through the recent elections. The question is how this party actually succeeded to marginalize the Congress Party? Apart from economic problems, what other shortcomings led to the failure of the Congress Party in the general elections?

A: The Congress Party mostly relies on the charismatic figures from the houses of [Jawaharlal] Nehru and Gandhi. Mr. Rahul Gandhi, also from the house of Gandhi, was introduced as the leader of the party, but he was not very successful in his position. At the same time, the figures attached to the house of Gandhi are not as popular as they once were, for example, when Indira Gandhi was the country’s prime minister. At present, the Indian society has gone beyond mere respect for personalities because the process of democracy has been institutionalized in this country. Therefore, the majority of people zoom is on plans that political parties offer. In the meantime, [the current Indian Prime Minister] Mr. [Manmohan] Singh, who is actually the main architect of India’s economic progress, is mostly focused on long-term plans and puts the highest emphasis on long-term political and economic agendas which serve to further establish India’s regional and global standings. Ordinary people, however, look to their tables and do not care much about long-term perspectives. For them, it does not matter what takes place 10 years from now and seeing a loaf of bread on their empty tables will make them more content. Knowing this fact, Modi put the strongest stress on this issue and announced during his election campaign that the Congress Party has forgotten about the people, but his party wants to create more jobs for them. It was for this reason that most Indian youths voted for Mr. Modi.

Q: So, is it logical to assume that by putting the highest emphasis on issues which are mostly of populist value, Mr. Modi will be able to somehow change some of the negative views that international community currently holds on India?

A: I believe that when it comes to basic problems facing India, there are no fundamental differences between policies of Mr. Modi and those of Singh. During the election phase, his party highlighted populist issues in order to draw support from the public opinion and win people’s votes. However, it should not be forgotten that India follows a strategic policy and in terms of that strategic policy it makes no difference which party is in power because large-scale issues at macro level have been accepted as strategic and national goals by all the political parties in India.

Q: How will be India’s relations with Pakistan under the new Indian government?

A: India has been pursuing a clear policy toward Pakistan and that policy will not change under the new government as both countries will continue their relations within the framework of their traditional policies. On the other hand, if there is to be any improvement in relations between the two countries, that improvement will not take place through the Congress Party because controlling the extremist forces is a job for Mr. Modi’s party. In my opinion, relations between the two countries will not get worse compared to the past under the new Indian government and I think necessary grounds will be also provided for serious negotiations for the resolution of the issue of Kashmir. Also, under the BJP government, there may be more suitable conditions for more useful discussions between the two sides.

Q: How Mr. Modi managed to win the elections? To what extent his track records in Gujarat were influential in helping him to win people’s votes?

A: Many people in India are of the opinion that the plans carried out by Modi in Gujarat were successful and many analysts also argue that the main reason behind his recent election win was his managerial background in that province. In my opinion, however, the most important reason behind his election victory was the inefficiency of the rival Congress Party during the time it held the power in India. During that time, a number of ministers affiliated to this party were sent to jail due to involvement in financial corruption cases. The incident in which a female university student was severely beaten and raped was greatly highlighted by the Indian press and other media, which emphasized that the government’s performance with regard to the incident has been too passive. Such issues drove a wedge between the public opinion and the Congress Party. On the other hand, there was no strong figure among the party politicians who could find a solution for these issues. As a result, people voted for and elected a new figure and a political party which showed more concern for the issues that were important to the Indian people.

Key Words: India, Muslims, National Congress Party, Narendra Modi, Sonia Gandhi, Islamophobic Politician, Gujarat, Economic Problems, Populist Value, Pakistan, Mollazehi

Source: Khabaronline News Website
ٰTranslated By: Iran Review.Org

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*Photo Credit: India.Com