Thursday, February 12, 2015


If the author were asked what he considers the most interesting dimension of the Indian national election season in 2014, it would be Narendra Modi, in spite of his Hindu rightist image, citing how the Indian territories of Pondicherry and Goa, regions in India colonized by the French and Portuguese respectively (unlike the rest of India, which was colonized by the British), should be encouraged to develop relations with their former colonial masters based on their historic connections. This, more than anything else, to the author’s mind, demonstrates a pragmatic approach to viewing the present and the future in the context of the past, a reading of history that is not laced with prejudice, for even many secular Indian nationalists do view colonialism from a very biased eye-lens. Many Hindu rightists today have a very strong aversion to many Western cultural facets, such as Valentine’s Day, and in some cases, the game of cricket and even the English language, and hence, for Modi to suggest celebrating a cultural connection with former imperial powers does come across as pleasantly surprising, especially in the context of the Portuguese rulers of Goa, who had, during the early period of their rule, engaged in forced conversions of Hindus to Christianity, which must be condemned.

Modi, when he was chief minister of Gujarat, had invited investors from Muslim-majority countries, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and even Pakistan.

Back in November 2013, as chief minister of Gujarat, Modi met a delegation of seventeen district governors from Afghanistan. They sought Gujarat's cooperation in the development of their dairy sector to which Modi reacted positively. Modi also shared details of the contribution of his provincial government to the rehabilitation of earthquake victims in Afghanistan.

Now, as prime minister, Modi has relaxed visa norms for Afghans, and India’s assistance to Afghanistan in cash and kind in different sectors has continued, with the Indian government under Modi even organizing a training programme for Afghan civil servants, and tweeted congratulating Afghanistan for its victory against Scotland in its first match in the cricket world cup in 2015.The Modi government even ensured the release of an Indian Christian priest engaging in social work in Afghanistan, held hostage by the Afghan Taliban.

Interestingly, so much for Modi’s foreign policy being possibly anti-Muslim right-wing, the government of India, with him as prime minister, actually supported a resolution against Israel (a country adored by Hindu rightists) in the UNHRC. Modi’s government even officially welcomed the formation of a joint government of the Fatah and radical Hamas in Palestine, which may be borne out of pragmatism, but cannot be said to reflect a Hindu rightist approach!

Modi, in fact, invited Nawaz Sharif, prime minister of Pakistan, for his (Modi’s) prime ministerial swearing-in ceremony. More recently, Modi even offered assistance to Pakistan for flood relief operations, and on the sad occasion of over a hundred school children being killed in Pakistan by the Pakistani Taliban, Modi instructed all schools to observe two minutes of silence for the departed. Later, Modi even called the Paskisrtani prime minister, wishing his country, the best of luck for the then coming cricket world cup in 2015!

In fact, after coming to power, far from being jingoistic, Modi has drawn much flak for not actually taking a tough stand against Pakistan and China, as promised (

At a later stage, however, Modi did adopt an aggressive posturing with respect to firings from Pakistan, but going by the Indian version of events, that was only in retaliation, and defending one’s borders, even aggressively, cannot be said to be jingoistic nationalism, leave alone being religious rightist.However, his willingness to engage with the Pakistani establishment even thereafter, possibly under American pressure, has generated some resentment within India from strategic experts (

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