Hindu nationalism risks pushing India into war with China
0 comments | by Yu Ning on August 17 , 2017
India harbors deep strategic suspicion toward China. It considers China as a rival and a potential enemy. For a long time, it has hyped that China is pursuing what is called the “String of Pearls” to encircle India. Despite China’s goodwill in inviting India to join the Belt and Road initiative, India insists on interpreting the project as a part of China’s strategic containment and encirclement of it.
Since India’s defeat in the Sino-Indian War of 1962, some Indians have been stuck in a zero-sum mentality in dealing with China. The war inflicted lingering pain on India and it became a hard knot to untie, leading to an ingrained suspicion of Chinese strategy. China’s development is seen as a misfortune to India. The faster China grows, the more fearful they are.
Nationalist fervor that demands revenge against China has taken root in India since the border war. The election of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has fueled the country’s nationalist sentiments. Modi took advantage of rising Hindu nationalism to come to power. This, on one hand, has enhanced his prestige and ability to control the country, but on the other, has made India more subject to the influence of conservatives, thus hampering reform. In diplomacy, New Delhi is demanded to act tougher in foreign relations, especially toward countries like Pakistan and China. The border row this time is an action targeted at China that caters to the demand of India’s religious nationalists.
The Modi government can do nothing if religious nationalism becomes extreme, as shown in its failure to curb violent incidents against Muslims since he came to power in 2014.
Where the China-India competition goes hinges on each side’s strength and wisdom. India is weaker than China in terms of national strength, but its strategists and politicians have shown no wisdom in preventing India’s China policy from being kidnapped by rising nationalism. This will put India’s own interests in jeopardy. India should be careful and not let religious nationalism push the two countries into war.