Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Secularism – A leash or shackle in Bharat’s neck? Part 3 National Cohesion in Secular India

The founding fathers offered two key benefits to the nation from accepting secularism as a foundation of Independent India. Firstly it is said to unite Hindus and secondly it is said to assuage the minority communities. Did the independent India reap these benefits from secularism?

The Hindu majority of independent India remained as united as it was during centuries of foreign rule. It formed no vote banks based on religion, kept its caste/clan based identities. The variations in Hindu majority are further exploited by the very congress system that promised to unite Hindu majority in return for it accepting Secularism in its civil and criminal social transactions. What secularism (Christianity without church) did in reality is that it slowly took away the civilizational memory from the newer generations of Indian Hindus. Hindu culture and heritage are fast losing their relationship to the local flora-fauna and are being analyzed from non-Indic ideological structures. The very Hindu-unity that is promised is getting systematically destroyed.

In fact secularism became a bane for Indian Hindus. The Hindu majority did not get any additional security in Independent India due to their secular laws. The secular laws does not protect Hindus in Punjab, Kashmir, North East, Kerala, Bengal, Orissa etc., Their unity is remained a mirage in secular India. The root cause of this is the fact that by definition secularism is nothing but non-Hinduism, then how can it allow Hindu unity?

At the same time the religious minorities of India did not feel any additional security in a secular-India. The most interesting aspect of this is the separatist movements in the Christian majority North-Eastern India. There is the perpetual Kashmir insurgency problem. Then there are two separatist movements with Indic roots – Khalistan movement in Punjab and Tamil Eelam demands in Sri Lanka. In all these scenarios the secular constitution of India could not calm down the ever anxious religious minorities of Indian union. The response of Indian state to these separatist movements is also something to be observed.

In spite of accepting secularism as the constitutional structure of independent India, it did not achieve much cohesion between the Hindu majority and religious minorities of independent India. There have been more than 50 notable religious riots in the nation. The worst religious riot in sub-continental history happened in 1947 under the watch of the very founding fathers of this nation. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Secularism – A leash or shackle in Bharat’s neck? Part 2 - Secularization of India

Since there is no philanthropy involved in imperialistic politics, the British applied whatever governance model/laws that they followed in Britain to their Indian colony. Indiscriminate slave trade was conducted in India by East India Company until it was made unlawful in Britain in 1807. Similarly, secularism was introduced to India in the second-half of 19th century as it became the governance model in Britain. For the British rulers, secularism ensured that they are not entangled in the historical burden of Hindu-Muslim social tension (even though they used this to make political gains), whereas for the Indian intellectual elite of the 19th century, which was a creation of the British rule, this is an opportunity to grow their power and influence for its making a departure from medieval (Islamic) polity in which the state was considered more or less the private property of the ruler.

The first secular act of British Government in India was the Religious Endowments Act in 1863, which appropriated the rents and produce of lands granted mainly for the support of Hindu temples. A similar act introduced for Muslim religious properties and trusts – conceded the Indian Muslims’ right to establish Wakfs and keep it separate from the state appropriation. It is important to note that there was hardly any Christian church property in India at that time.

Another secular act that had universal application for all Indians was the Child Marriage Restraint Act introduced in 1929. In addition to these laws, the British government of India codified and enacted various laws; separate for Hindus and Muslims, mainly in the realm of financial transactions.

The true secularization of India, especially in the sense of “Christianization of India without Church”, happened under the leadership of the first prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru (JLN). A secularized version of Hindu law was codified and enacted into law (Hindu Marriage Act (1955), Hindu Succession Act (1956), Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act (1956), and Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act (1956)) during his leadership. In this process, JLN trampled on various philosophical principles of Sanatana Dharma a.k.a Hinduism such as Vivaaha, Purusharthas and Asrama Dharmas etc., and replaced them with secular (read Christian Law minus Church theology) ritual aspects in their place.

JLN sold this secularism to Indian public in the guise of uniting the Hindu population, by standardizing the personal laws of Hindu majority. In their penchant for secularism the leadership of independent India ignored the fact that the unifying factor of Hinduism is not the locally developed rituals but the dharmic philosophies that all these locally disparate rituals represent and abide by.

The Christian minorities never needed a secular law because the so-called secular law is nothing but a Christian social contract minus the church.

JLN did not and could not press the Indian Muslim population to come under the secular uniform civil code because they squarely denied the government of India in interfering with their personal lives and religious beliefs.

Thus the secular leadership brigade of Independent India snatched away the Hindu dharmic philosophy from the civil relationships of majority Hindu population. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Iran Conundrum – Thinking beyond the obvious

As the drum beats of war appear on the Iranian horizon is there exists an opportunity for India to steer the world community out of this disaster? How can it help the key players in realizing their true national potential?

Roots of mistrust
The root cause of this international issue is the historical civilizational clash between Judo-Christian west and Shia-Persian Iran with the Sunni-Arab GCC trying to benefit from this quarrel. In its effort to be more Islamic than Sunnis, Iran made an unnecessary enemy out of the regional military power - Israel (and by association the sole super power USA).

In their pursuit of hegemony, all these players are forgetting the fundamental truth – A civilization’s greatness lies in its capacity to survive against toughest odds and not in its capacity to destroy others.

Iran - By proclaiming to ‘erase Israel out of the map’, the Iranian leadership showed its lack of wisdom fitting to the great civilization it represents. It is trying to hide this irrationality under the (perceived) protection of nuclear weapons. What Iranian leadership fails to understand in this process is that the other irrational states that it wants to emulate are artificial states created by world powers for a specific purpose and have no freedom on their own to use that nuclear blackmail beyond the intended purpose. By trying to follow the footsteps of North Korea and Pakistan Iranian leadership is not only diminishing its stature but also insulting the great civilization it represents.

Israel - The Jewish civilization has endured much suffering for thousands of years in the hands of almost all world powers except India (and China). They toiled hard to build the modern nation-state of Israel and they have a right to exist as a proud nation. While they have a right to secure their national interests, it cannot be achieved at the destruction of other nations and societies. They should respect the sovereignty and national-pride of other societies as much as they do theirs.

All other stakeholders in this game, be it USA/EU/GCC or PRC/Russia, are there to protect their self-interests and extend their power and influence at the cost of others.

Indian interests
While India’s economic interests are closely associated with the GCC, its geopolitical interests are tied with Iran. On one side there are 6 million Indians living in the GCC region earning ~$20B foreign exchange annually. In addition to this, India imports nearly 65% of its $90+ billion energy security from the gulf region every year alone. On the other side, Iran is key to India’s geopolitical interests especially in Afghanistan in addition to being a key pillar in India’s energy security (Iran supplies 11% of Indian energy requirements).

Any geopolitical misstep in Afghanistan will have serious repercussions to Indian internal and external security. In addition to this India’s actions are closely observed by each and every stakeholder of this game as it will be a sign of geopolitical maturity that is expected of India to match its growing economic foot print.

Problem Scenario
National Sovereignty – This is the paramount of Iran’s national interests. Israel and GCC wants to reduce this by weakening Iran and breach into its territorial integrity. USA/EU (NATO) group want to cut Iran to size so it cannot challenge their hegemony. Russia/PRC group (SCO) wants to protect Iran’s sovereignty so it can be their representative in the strategic West Asian region.

Nuclear Security – This is Iran’s strategy to achieve its first objective. None of the other players want Iran to hide under the nuclear umbrella as they are afraid of the potential harm Iran cause under this protection. The world has learned enough lessons from the nuclear blackmail by Pakistan and North Korea; the nuclear migraines of the world. Even Russia/PRC group cannot accept a new entrant to the coveted nuclear group.

Nuclear Energy – This is the pretext Iran is using to develop its nuclear military potential. While Israel, GCC and USA/EU question the necessity of energy surplus Iran to need nuclear energy, they cannot deny this right of Iran under existing international laws. The USA/EU group might be interested to support Iran on this cause under ‘right’ circumstances. The Russia/PRC group wholeheartedly supports Iran’s right to harness nuclear energy for its economic potential.

Economy – This is a key ingredient for Iran’s long-term success. Even though Israel and GCC might want to curtain Iran’s economic progress on one or other pretext so it will not become too strong to threaten their geopolitical interests, Iran can win the support of both the power groups USA/EU and Russia/PRC if Iran compromises on key issues.

India’s value proposition
India has civilizational relationships with Iran going back to its pre-Islamic history and it always kept this relationship mutually beneficial. India is the only civilization that did not prosecute Israelis.

India also has developed an indigenous nuclear wherewithal against the unfair international sanctions. Its nuclear umbrella covers all of West Asia and its BMD capability is second to none. India has demonstrated its commitment to WMD non-proliferation unlike few world powers that are trying to intimidate Iran.

India also has time-tested economic, military and geo-political partnerships on both sides of the table.  Its national interests are integrated with the stability and success of all the parties involved in this crisis. So the solutions proposed and underwritten by India will benefit all the parties immensely.

Possible Indian Solution
Iran proclaims ‘Israel’s right to exist’ – Quran claims that Judaism and Christianity as the previous incarnations of itself. So it should be very easy for Iranian leadership to accept this fundamental reality of Israel.

The world community is already helping the Palestinian cause by giving it UN membership. Iran will work with Israel and the international community to make the Palestine dream a reality.

Provide Nuclear Umbrella to Iran – India will provide nuclear umbrella to Iran by signing a friendship treaty with Iran. Any WMD attack on Iranian territory will be considered as an attack on Indian soil and Indian nuclear doctrine will kick in. India will not transfer/deploy any nuclear weapons or delivery mechanisms on Iranian soil as Indian missiles can cover all potential Iranian threats.

Iran voluntarily gives up its pursuit of nuclear weapons and destroys its weaponization capacity, if any. This should satisfy Israel's national security concerns, permanently. 

Iran will invite and allow complete oversight of its nuclear establishments by IAEA. Iran can buy civil-nuclear technology from anyone as long as they are under IAEA guidelines.

USA/EU and Russia/PRC groups might have reservations on the other side providing the same nuclear umbrella to Iran, where as both groups might find it acceptable for India to provide the same as a neutral player.

Provide BMD coverage to Iran – India will provide BMD coverage to key Iranian civilian and economic centers so they are protected from potential nuclear first strike from its adversaries.

A stable and secure world
By accepting India’s mediation and help Iran will survive as one nation from this self-inflicted security conundrum. If its value proposition to world humanity is that valuable, Iran will be able to achieve its national goals in a peaceful manner. Iran’s current identity that is pushing it into this abyss is hardly few hundred years old whereas its existence is thousands of years. Hope Its leadership learns the lessons Saddam Husain and Mummed Gadhafi failed to learn before it is too late.

By solving the Iran-Israeli problem, India would be offering a new paradigm for world stability where the strong and powerful nuclear states (USA, Russia, China and India) can help smaller nations come out of their mutual differences and security anxieties.