The BJP’s Hindu Nationalism Interferes with India’s International Relations
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rose to power through an ideology of Hindu Nationalism. Hinduism is an Ancient religion with deep roots in India, however Hindu Nationalism is a more recent invention. It is a political ideology based on religious identity rather than belief. “Hindu nationalists,” Christophe Jaffrelot writes, “place more emphasis on ethnic historical-cultural traits than on spirituality and Hindu rites.” This emphasis on religious identity leads to majoritarian governance that marginalizes minority communities especially Indian Muslims. However, the international community has largely remained silent despite an increasingly hostile environment for religious minorities.
But now it looks like the BJP may have taken one step too far. Recently, Nupur Sharma, the party’s national spokeswoman, and Naveen Jindal, its head of media in Delhi, made offensive remarks that insulted the Prophet Muhammed in public. The comments garnered intense reactions from many Islamic nations from around the world. The reaction brought to light the important linkages between India and many Islamic governments. The Economist explains, “Gulf countries supply two-thirds of India’s oil and host some 9 million Indian workers.” Indeed, the first nation to protest was Qatar. It is India’s largest supplier of LNG.
In response the BJP has done more than make empty apologies. It has suspended Nupur Sharma and expelled Naveen Jindal. Moreover, Nupur Sharma was summoned by the police in Mumbai, because her comments may have violated Indian law. The irony though is how autocratic nations in the Middle East fostered the first real concessions from the BJP. Meanwhile, the United States is hesitant to offend a key ally who can provide strategic balance towards China in Asia. Nonetheless, the example shows the international community can apply pressure against Indian illiberalism. Unfortunately, the pressure is paradoxically more likely to come from other illiberal nations than the United States.