India should return to its secular roots | Editorial HT – editorials
On Monday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif condemned on Twitter what he called the “wave of organized violence against Indian Muslims.” Iran’s statement comes shortly after the Indonesian minister of religious affairs said the riots in India were “inhuman.” Turkey and Malaysia have criticized India’s movements in Kashmir and the approval of the Citizenship Law (Amendment), or the CAA; Bangladesh has also expressed concern with the CAA.
When Narendra Modi assumed the position of prime minister in 2014, one of his key achievements was to establish links with the Islamic world. Recognizing the national interests and strategic imperatives of India, Modi traveled extensively to Muslim-dominated countries, particularly in Western Asia. New Delhi was also careful to maintain its ties with Iran, despite pressure from the United States. He saw Indonesia as an important middle power in Asia-Pacific. Bangladesh was perceived as India’s best friend in South Asia.
Some of the criticisms are extreme. Some states that make these criticisms have an abysmal history of human rights and lack the moral authority to point the finger. But in diplomacy, perceptions matter. And the fact is that the key diplomatic achievements run the risk of being wasted due to the conflicting internal evolution. It is not enough to think that the world has prejudices against New Delhi. In fact, improving India’s stature has been a key element of Mr. Modi’s agenda. But the feeling that his government has been insensitive to minority concerns has gained ground, in the West, but also in the Islamic world. This will have geopolitical costs. It will also make India vulnerable to transnational extremism, at a time when the neighborhood is fragile, with a possible return of the Taliban to Afghanistan. India needs to repair its image. Returning to your secular roots and approaching Muslims at home is the first step.