The views expressed in this article are entirely of the author. PTH does not essentially agree with these.
By Riaz Haq
BJP leader Narendra Modi has made history as the first low-caste Hindu to be elected prime minister of India. Modi’s spectacular rise from being a chai-walla to a major world leader is sure to inspire the world’s largest population of poor who call India home. Before discussing how Modi’s rise will impact India-Pakistan ties, let’s briefly examine the new man at the helm of affairs of the world’s second most populous nation.
Who’s Narendra Modi?
Narendra Modi will soon become the first low-caste Hindu prime minister of India. Modi was a young man when he joined Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the extremist Hindu nationalists organization in India, which has a long history of admiration for Adolf Hitler, the Nazi leader, and his “Final Solution”.
In his book “We” (1939), Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, the leader of the Hindu Nationalist RSS wrote, “To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races — the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by.”
2002 Gujarat Riots:
Apparently taking a cue from his Guruji Golwalkar, Modi presided over the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat state where he was first elected chief minister in 2001. During the riot, at least 2,000 Muslims were killed by Hindu mobs and several hundred girls and women were stripped naked, raped or gang-raped, had their wombs slashed and were thrown into fires, some while still alive.
In spite of the riots (or may be because of the riots), Modi continued to win elections and run Gujarat state as its chief minister since he was first elected 13 years ago. Gujarat saw significant investment and rapid economic growth during this period which is often attributed to Modi’s pro-business policies.
Modi’s Ties to Oligarchs:
Modi has cultivated close ties with India’s oligarchs who mostly come from his Gujarat state. Gautam Adani is one of these oligarchs to whom Modi has been particularly close. Adani has received cheap land for his land development projects and lucrative power purchase contracts for the electricity his power company generates. Adani has returned the favor by prividing both financial and logistics support for the Indian history’s most expensive election campaign run by the BJP on Modi’s behalf.
Modi and Sharif Comparison:
Far-fetched as it may seem, the fact is that Mr. Narendra Modi shares some commonalities with Mr. Nawaz Sharif. Examples:
1. Both men lead parties considered to be right-of-center.
2. Both leaders won fewer than a third of the popular votes in “landslides” to achieve absolute majorities in their respective national parliaments.
3. Both politicians are considered pro-business with close ties to oligarchs. There’s Sharif-Mansha nexus in Pakistan similar to Modi-Adani nexus in India.
4. Both men support rapid expansion in trade which will benefit the oligarchs on both sides.
Modi’s Balancing Act:
Narendra Modi’s political support base consists of the extreme right-wing Hindu Nationalists. His financial backers and investors are the big Gujarati oligarchs. The interests of these two groups diverge dramatically. While the Hindu Nationalists will demand hawkish policies toward Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indian Muslims, the oligarchs will push for expanded trade ties with Pakistan. Adani is reportedly building a major power plant in Kutch region near Pakistan’s border in the hope of exporting electricity to the country.
I expect Modi will try and balance the two interests groups by stepping up his anti-Pakistan rhetoric on “aatankwad” (terrorism) and at the same time pursue increased “vyapar” (trade) with Pakistan. This balancing act will severely test Modi’s ability to quickly acquire political skills which he did not need as the chief minister of Gujarat. Failure to do so could scuttle all of his lofty promises of “development” he has made to the people India during his recent campaign to become prime minister of India.