Namaste Sharon: Hindutva and Sharonism under US Hegemony
R. Radha Krishnan ·       

The book written by Vijay Prasad comes at time when India is trying to come out of the vestiges of the post soviet union world order and is in the process of redefining its interests. Prasad tries to explore the ideological moorings of Indo-Israel relations during the reign of the Bhartiya Janata Party led NDA government, in wake of the advent of US unilateralism. According to the author the advent of Hindutva in India, Likud party in Israel and their subsequent attempts for a strategic alliance, marked by the rise of Christian right/Neocons in the US is based on belligerent means and goals of confronting the Muslim populace and provoking their neighbouring states in their respective regions. The basis of this encounter has been denounced on the ground that it would only facilitate the imperial forays of the US in their respective regions, at the cost of undermining the local conflicts, falling into the Huntington trap which seeks to discredit and vilify Islam and Communism. The theme of the book is very innovative as not much literature is available in exploring the strands that reflect the importance of domestic politics and agendas in the formulation of foreign policy.

The book is flooded with details about names and events, regimes, organizations, personalities, international events and religious groups, by the author in his attempts to draw the picture of the collaboration between the rightist forces in these countries. It gives a vivid account of the nature of India’s relationship with the Arab world, the power of their energy resources in influencing India’s foreign policy, India straddling between new security concerns and traditional ties which evolved due to the shared values of the freedom struggle. At the same time the author states that the present Indo-Israel interaction is devoid of any objectivity. However the author displays dogmatism, when he refuses to throw light on any other probable factor apart from BJP’s ideological leanings that could have facilitated the recent developments in India’s relations with Israel and the United States.

The first and second chapter tries to chronicle the stages in which the Indo-Israel relations underwent qualitative changes from a limited engagement which was mainly influenced by the solidarity towards Arab nationalism under the leadership of Nasser. The author very candidly states the factors which determined India’s principled position on the Palestinian and Jewish question, during India’s struggle for independence under the vanguard of the Indian national Congress. Nehruvian idealism envisaged support to the hitherto unrepresented nationalities of the Third world and displayed an avowed solidarity to the cause of Palestine as well as deplored the holocaust. This was followed by pragmatic concerns like dependence on the Arab oil and balancing act in negotiating with the cold war conundrum which deterred any kind of move towards Israel.

The proponents and earlier writings of Hindutva, which emerged as a political force in the electoral politics of India and also witnessed the coming of right wing BJP to power in 1998, are adequately highlighted in the third and fourth chapters to derive a comparative framework. The common ground on which the enterprise of formation of the nation state operates is the writings of Golwalkar, Savarkar addressing the Jewish question, emulating the ideals of Nazism and Zionism. The author notes that the relations with Israel witnessed a qualitative shift in 1998 thus vindicating what he terms the anti Islam character of Hindutva. He opines that BJP’s sole purpose has been in crafting the security doctrine based on fear and strength (P.27). Such sweeping generalization clearly evades the political pressures from India’s domestic constituency vis a vis Israel. India’s diplomatic imbroglio at the Organisation of Islamic countries on the Kashmir issue or India towing the Moroccan line on the Saharawi independence movement as a trade off on the Kashmir issue, its stand on East Timor and cross border terrorism emanating from Pakistan do not find even a passing reference in the dissection of the ‘ideological under currents’ that govern the Indo-Israel relations under the American umbrella. The rise of suicide terrorism in J&K is defined as a result of the BJP regime’s attempts to replicate the harsh counter terrorism measures of the Sharon regime.

However there is a genuine call for caution and restraint in negotiating is the rising American hegemony in the comity of states, which has the propensity to inundate the world through its military might and commerce. India’s quest to seek a suitable place under US unilateralism by endorsing Bush doctrine is highly flawed since both India and Israel can’t match the prowess of the US. They would invariably end up as regional satraps/ vassals, catering to the American grandiose plans of spreading its military and economic wings in South Asia and West Asia respectively. These is vindicated by the role of MNCs like Enron and the conditionalties attached to aid which threaten to subvert the existing economic institutions in countries like India.

The fifth and sixth chapter focus on the contours and seeds of the strategic relationship between India and Israel that had been laid in the 1960’s and 1970’s devoid of any publicity. The relations continue to be one sided in terms of India’s dependence on Israel to replace its vintage soviet weaponry and tap alternate sources of arms supply to deal with embargos in the aftermath of Pokhran tests in 1998. Ties with Israel are also seen as a wishful attempt to retrieve India’s conventional superiority which had been neutralized by Pakistan conducting similar tests in Chagai in 1998. The debate shifts to the interaction between the Indian diaspora and the Jewish groups in the United States, trying to influence the regimes in their respective homelands in forging an alliance in wake of ‘similar threats’, a move influenced by geopolitical rather than cultural values. The author seems to miss a major point with regard to the role of diaspora in trans national religious movement when he uses terms like ‘Yankee Hindutva’, as he seems to look at certain religious movement and groups in isolation while extending benefit of doubt to others. While globalization is blamed for economic and cultural hegemony by the west, issues like Saudi based Wahhabi fundamentalism move against syncretic and secularist Islamic culture across the globe warrants adequate attention.

Overall the book is a welcome intervention and tries to bridge the divide between domestic and international politics. The south Asian region remains Indo -centric in terms of its geographical spread and asymmetrical power structure. Politicization of religion or fundamentalism of any kind is not peculiar to any particular country in the Indian subcontinent. A broad perspective needs to be adopted while exploring the linkages between terrorism, fundamentalism and globalization.