Foreign anger works on Modi – and guarantees BJP’s two-faced failures

A version of this article first appeared in The India Cable, a subscriber-only newsletter published by The Wire and Galileo Ideas. You can subscribe to The India Cable by clicking here.

The despicable comments about Islam and the Prophet made by Bharatiya Janata Party spokespersons Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal during a live television broadcast by India’s largest media group have all come under fire. ‘A day of work.

Over the past few months, we have witnessed high profile insults and incitement to violence and murder at Dharam Sansads. They received the party’s endorsement, and leading BJP ministers and ministers seconded them, speaking in the same tone. Offenders were often rushed to party posts, while in contrast, BJP states police acted eagerly to arrest comedians or citizens making flippant comments about the prime minister or chief minister of the ‘Uttar Pradesh.

So what prompted the BJP to issue a general statement, suspend Nupur Sharma and expel Naveen Jindal?

Was it images of Modi’s photos on the trash cans in Kuwait, with shoe prints on it? Tweets from West Asia said the anti-Islamic statements were made by leaders close to Modi. People documenting the hate speech and calls for violence established that the BJP had been spurred into action by calls for an economic boycott of Indian products and angry social media comments with large audiences in West Asia, including that of the Grand Mufti of Oman. mosque.

By contrast, a similar objection from Muslims in Kanpur resulted in the indictment of 400 of them, and the threat to bulldoze their homes remains.

The BJP government has been very worried about its international image lately, as India’s falling rankings have pushed its reputation as a democracy beyond danger. International institutions have defined India as a “partially free” “electoral autocracy”. The clues are where they were in 1975, when a formal emergency was declared.

Now, with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken calling out India for the deteriorating environment of minorities (Muslim and Christian), India’s Foreign Secretary accusing him of US ‘vote banking’ policy, or the argument that communalization is driven from below in India, just won’t wash away.

Indian courts have allowed the Gyanvapi Mosque issue to spread to almost all Muslim places of worship. Following the BJP’s victory in the UP in March, the social environment deteriorated sharply.

Now, with a docile and propagandistic media allowing hate speech to spiral out of control on live television to please the ruling party, personal commentary on Islam and its founder has gone too far, angering Islamic nations in West Asia that this government is very keen to keep on its side.

Strategic, energy and trade needs, and a faltering national economy without employment opportunities, dictate that India cannot jeopardize its relations with West Asia, where millions of Indians – of all faiths – are employees. Personal comments about the Prophet could provoke a backlash, dealing hard blows to India on many levels.

Since 2014, Indian diplomacy has relied smugly on the prime minister’s hugs to heads of state and government abroad. Since he was important to the BJP’s domestic politics and propaganda, he navigated until relations with Pakistan and China became too hot to handle in 2019. In 2020, 20 Indian soldiers were killed on the LAC and China has launched a relentless foray into India.

The pandemic has also deprived Modi of photo opportunities to center himself.

After Ukraine, India is in a resource crisis with rising food prices, a soaring oil import bill and a forex crisis. Between the Quad and the BRICS, it’s between a rock and a hard place. At a time like this, the bravado of the MEA, like its reaction to pop star Rihanna’s unrest by farmers, among other embarrassments, cannot be extended to West Asia.

Even earlier, in 2020 India’s envoy to the UAE, Pavan Kapoor, was forced to speak out against India’s Islamophobes amid outrage over “Islamophobic” slurs. At the time, sentiment against the Tablighi Jamaat, accusing them of spreading COVID-19, was being fomented domestically.

This time too, the BJP statement is loquacious, non-specific and there is no mention of Islam or Muslims.

It was signed by the “Head Quarter Incharge” and there is no intervention from senior leaders like the BJP national chairman or the Modi-Shah duo. It would seem that no top BJP leader dares to take on the baiters of Islam, because domestically the party depends on promoting this sentiment and is sinking to new depths every day.

They say the BJP government likes to quote Gandhi abroad and promote his assassin Nathuram Godse at home – wearing the veneer of ‘the greatest democracy in the world’ globally and locally, assiduously following ideological mentor MS Golwalkar , whose death anniversary was yesterday.

But as the work of scholars like Kira Huju demonstrates, India is facing turbulence as it becomes increasingly difficult to walk that fine line while wearing two faces. Huju documents how Hindutva ideals “are embedded in the Indian foreign service under the guise of anti-imperial language”.

But when figures like Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal voice the hatred at the heart of this divisive ideology on national television, and it is denounced abroad, it compels the ruling regime to act.

But what about the Prime Minister’s favorite TV channel and the BJP leaders who supported these two spokespersons and tried to go against Mohammed Zubair of AltNews to display them? At best, this episode indicates a tactical retreat, with the group spooked because the rot within is beginning to smell. It’s not a course correction, but it does underscore that foreign pressure is working on Modi.

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