Gen Rawat, protect India’s secular face

Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat’s recent statement regarding Pakistan’s religious identity says a lot about India’s internal political situation. It also stunned international observers and analysts, who have been watching the ups and downs of Pak-India relations very keenly, as it was the first statement of its kind by any Indian general. The statement is unrelated to defence affairs and addresses foreign policy instead. Addressing a parade at National Defence Academy in Pune on November 30, Gen Rawat stated, “If Pakistan wants to live together with India, it will have to develop as a secular state.”

Gen Rawat’s statement itself is an anecdote for India’s political situation, where the ruling BJP, a political party with hard-line religious ideology, is losing popularity amongst masses ahead of the upcoming elections. It appears as if Gen Rawat’s speech is an attempt to face saving for BJP.

Pakistan’s religious identity is Pakistan’s own issue and nobody from the outer world can dictate Pakistan in this regard. It is true that Pakistan is suffering from radicalism, however Gen Rawal must know that the menace of extremism, pioneered by BJB and RSS, is gradually swallowing India’s secular identity as well.

In a research paper ‘Hinduism and Terror’ for Hudson Institute, Paul Marshall, writes, “Since September 11, 2001, the world’s attention has properly been focused on the violence of Islamic extremism, but there are also major violent trends in Hindu extremism that have largely been ignored in the United States. In India, this violence is supported by Hindu extremists and their allies in the Indian government, which is currently led by the Bharatiya Janata Party.”

Marshal further wrote, “In the past decade, extremist Hindus have increased their attacks on Christians, until there are now several hundred per year. But this did not make news in the U.S. until a foreigner was attacked. In 1999, Graham Staines, an Australian missionary who had worked with leprosy patients for three decades, was burned alive in Orissa along with his two young sons. The brutal violence visited on Muslims in Gujarat in February 2002 also brought the dangers of Hindu extremism to world attention. Between one and two thousand Muslims were massacred after Muslims reportedly set fire to a train carrying Hindu nationalists, killing several dozen people.”

While the Indian army chief wants Pakistan to change its identity, India has been enjoying strong ties with Islamic states such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, whose religious identity does not trouble Prime Minister Modi or Gen Rawat.

On the other hand, Pakistan is fighting extremism fueled by foreign hands. Other neighbors like Iran and China have no problem with Pakistan’s religious identity. China, an altogether non-religious state has made the strongest relations with Pakistan since its inception and has made one sizeable investment in Pakistan for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Pakistan is successfully combating extremism and terrorism and is trying to promote a culture of tolerance and inter-faith harmony. Opening of the Kartarpur Border speaks volumes about Pakistan’s foreign policy.

India’s constitution is secular but it is rapidly turning into a religious extremist state, which is what should be a matter of concern for Gen Rawat, not Pakistan’s religious identity.

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