FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
Akhand Bharat and other stories
Updated:Jan 4, 2016
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
By C.Rajamohan
 
Some ideas come with heavy political baggage. Others come with unacceptable authorship. “Akhand Bharat” seems doubly handicapped. It’s associated with the RSS and generates fears of Hindutva hegemony across the subcontinent.
 
But the essence of the idea — the unity of the subcontinent — is likely to endure. The problem is with different conceptions of that unity.
 
The disagreements are also about the nature of the relationships between different political entities of the region. There’s also much quibbling over names. The BJP and RSS don’t like the word “India”, which they think is an invention of outsiders. Hence the insistence on “Bharat”.
 
On the flip side, many in Pakistan and elsewhere in the region accuse Jawaharlal Nehru of wrongfully appropriating the historic name of “India” when the subcontinent was partitioned.
New Delhi’s smaller neighbours complain that they have to cope with the tension between celebrating the shared “Indic civilisation” and the need to assert their separate identities vis-a-vis the largest territorial unit in the subcontinent that goes by the name of India.
 
The term of “Indian subcontinent”, unsurprisingly, is unacceptable, for it creates the same problem as “India”. The “subcontinent” (the preferred term for this column) draws fewer objections, but has strong competition from “South Asia”, which has gained much currency since the mid-1960s. Some want to put some passion into the integration project by fusing the two words into “Southasia”.
 
Whatever you may call the region, the idea of a “united subcontinent” refuses to go away. Days after Ram Madhav stepped on the “Akhand Bharat” landmine, two political leaders, Sharad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan, reminded the nation of the enduring idea of a “confederation” among India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
 
Yadav and Paswan are the political legatees of the socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia, who had opposed the partition of the subcontinent. “Confederation” is a far more subversive concept than the idea of cultural unity that Ram Madhav was espousing. Confederation, after all, involves some shedding of political sovereignty.
 
But the call for a confederation invokes fewer protests because of its presumed emphasis on voluntary and non-hegemonic association.
The concept of the “strategic unity” of the subcontinent is very much part of Nehruvian foreign policy. The idea that the security of the subcontinent was indivisible animated the first prime minister’s approach to neighbours — whether it was Nehru’s opposition to Pakistan’s Cold War alliances or the preservation of treaty-based special relationships with Nepal and Bhutan.
 
Sceptics would say the rhetoric about “Akhand Bharat”, or a “confederation” among India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, is just that. The subcontinent’s separate political identities have certainly congealed since the middle of the last century. The sovereignty of even the smallest of states in the region — Bhutan and Maldives — is now well-established.
 
Realists also point to the fact that smaller neighbours continue to mobilise outside powers to balance Delhi and India’s growing difficulties in preserving its much vaunted primacy in the region.
 
Would it be right, then, to conclude that the current state system in the subcontinent is cast in stone? Not so fast; there are many forces reshaping the subcontinent’s economic and political architecture.
 
One is regionalism. When Dhaka proposed the creation of a regional forum for South Asia in the late 1970s, both Delhi and Islamabad were wary. While India is now more supportive of regionalism under the banner of Saarc, Pakistan remains hesitant to embrace it, fearing as it does Delhi’s hegemony.
 
Three decades after the formation of the Saarc, there is much support for the idea of restoring the “historical unity of our common living space” as the journal Himal Southasian, founded in Kathmandu by Kanak Mani Dixit, affirms. Dixit and other regionalists lament the fact that the subcontinent is the least integrated region of the world. They are not, of course, seeking to undo the state system in the subcontinent but to promote greater cooperation through regional, sub-regional and transregional mechanisms.
 
The pressures to re-imagine the current order in the region are reinforced by the logic of globalisation. Beginning with Sri Lanka in the late 1970s, most countries in the region have shed inward oriented economic policies and are seeking to integrate with the global economy. But can you connect with the world while avoiding economic integration with your neighbours?
 
Meanwhile, the juggernaut of “red  capitalism” in China is chipping away at the many barriers within the subcontinent and between it and the world. Through  its many Silk Road initiatives — including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor across the Karakoram and the Kunming-Kolkata corridor across the eastern Himalayas — Beijing is trying to physically reconnect the region that deliberately divided itself.
Economic factors are indeed driving the subcontinent towards greater unity.
 
But political reconciliation among warring groups within and across the region’s territorial boundaries remains hard as ever. The subcontinent’s story in the coming years could well be about irresistible economic forces meeting an immovable political object. The problem with “Akhand Bharat” is only one part of that story.
 
The writer is consulting editor on foreign affairs for ‘The Indian Express’ and a distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, Delhi
- See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/rss-ram-madhav-akhand-bharat-and-other-stories/#sthash.u9ujfE1o.dpuf
 
The Indian Express, January 5, 2016
 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will be visiting India between 7th and 10th of April and plethoras of agreements are likely to be signed then. Among the various agreements, the two countries will be signing the defence cooperation agreement which  has been getting the most attention. 
 
read-more
The Congress needs to come up with a more aspirational narrative than that of the BJP. The party doesn’t lack talent, but its leadership clearly lacks hunger and enthusiasm required for winning elections, writes Tridivesh Singh Maini for South Asia Monitor.
 
read-more
 If the civil war in Syria continues, it will be impossible to control in the future. To stop the massive humanitarian destruction, necessary steps need to be taken immediately, writes Mohammad Kawsar Ahammed for South Asia Monitor.
 
read-more
Society for Policy Studies in association with India Habitat Centre invites you to a lecture in the Changing Asia Series by by Prof. K. Srinath Reddy, President, Public Health Foundation of India on Health And Development: India Must Bridge The Disconnect Chair: C Uday Bhaskar, Director, Soci...
 
read-more
spotlight image 'Covert military actions or surgical strikes against terror launch pads in Pakistan have limited utility that won't change the mind of the Pakistan Army or the ISI  which sponsor cross-border terrorism
 
read-more
In Dutch politics, alliances are imperative to construct an administration. The post-election government formation is, therefore, a slightly time-consuming process. In due course, a coalition led by the incumbent Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, will surface.  
 
read-more
Japan is a special country in several ways. For centuries, it remained isolated and disconnected with the outside world. But once it opened itself up to the West with the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854 by the use of force by Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry of the United States Navy, Japan has never looked back. Japan is a spe
 
read-more
Recently, under the leadership of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, and earlier under the late Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdallah bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud, Saudi Arabia has rolled out a series of women-friendly initiatives.  Recently, under the leadership of Custodian of the
 
read-more
The attacks in London on Wednesday are grim reminders of not just the growing menace of terrorism but also of the urgent need for the global community to join hands in combating it. 
 
read-more
Column-image

India remians the inflexible bête-noir for Pakistan, yet there are few books by Indian authors that have sought to interpret the prodigal neighbour in a holistic, informed and empathetic manner.

 
Column-image

The line that Mortimer Durand drew across a small map in 1893 has bled the Pashtun heart ever since. More than a century later both sides of that line remain restless. But the mystery behind what actually happened on 12 November 1893 has never ...

 
Column-image

What went wrong for the West in Afghanistan? Why couldn't a global coalition led by the world's preeminent military and economic power defeat "a bunch of farmers in plastic sandals on dirt bikes" in a conflict that outlasted b...

 
Column-image

What will be Pakistan's fate? Acts of commission or omission by itself, in/by neighbours, and superpowers far and near have led the nuclear-armed country at a strategic Asian crossroads to emerge as a serious regional and global concern whi...

 
Column-image

Some South African generals, allied with the British forces, sought segregation from the enlisted men, all blacks, after being taken prisoners of war. The surprised German commander told them firmly that they would have to share the same quarte...

 
Subscribe to our newsletter
Archive