Independent India inherited a host of problems causing destabilisation from within –ranging from regional centrifugalism to fissiparous trends rooted in caste-based politics that was cloaked in Socialist ideology. None of these however, were to prove so vicious and festering as the evil of communalism that was inherent in the after effect of Partition. India is the only major country that got its freedom in conjunction with a vertical division of the land on the basis of religion. While communal violence marred the domestic scene in the decades after Independence, Indo-Pak hostilities had the effect of producing a narrative in which the Muslim leadership appeared to be ambiguous about placing loyalty to 'nation' above the questions of 'faith'. This gave a fillip to the 'Minority politics' in this country that made advocacy of 'secularism' by the Congress look like Muslim appeasement. Also Congress shrewdly realised that in a country where the dominant community constituting eighty percent of the population was badly divided politically, consolidating the votes of the Minorities that represented nearly one fifth of the electorate was a sure match winner. Sensing the rise of a Hindu stream in politics Indira Gandhi – through the 42nd Constitutional Amendment of the days of Emergency – inserted the word 'secular' in the Preamble and since then there has been no turning back on the Minority-focused polity by the Congress and other 'secular' forces. In domestic politics today the Minority card has become their prime instrument for the electoral battle.
In the strategic plane three things have adversely affected India's internal security situation. First is the flawed political philosophy with which the Congress leadership tried to govern India initially. With the Partition giving birth to an Islamic State of Pakistan the Indian regime should have stuck to the principle of 'one man one vote' for the Indian democracy – regardless of caste, creed or gender – that was recorded in our Constitution subsequently. However, since a matching number of Muslims had stayed on in India the leadership here got caught in the psyche of demonstrating to the world that Muslims in India were even happier than their counterparts on the other side. This helped the elite and the Ulema to capture the leadership of the Muslim minority in India and start claiming special patronage for them. They did it with the same mentality that had egged on the pre-Partition Muslim League to work for the Two Nation theory.
This leadership never allowed the community to assimilate itself with the ways of a Democratic Republic that guaranteed freedom of vote but worked on the presumption that the elected Political Executive that exercised sovereign power would make no distinction of any kind amongst its citizens. That Muslims could be led by Hindus and vice versa was an idea that was never encouraged by the self -styled leaders of the minority. In recent years responsible leaders of the community having enjoyed the most privileged Constitutional positions have suggested 'a share for the community in the national level decision making' – all out of sheer vested interest. This separatist thought primed in the UPA whose Prime Minister – completely swayed by vote bank politics- announced that the first claim on the nation's resources should go to the Minority.
That the installation of a BJP government with an overriding majority under Narendra Modi would make the opposition totally desperate is understandable but the country has to ensure that India's domestic scene was not fouled up at the cost of national security. Modi's 'sabka saath sabka vikas' and emphasis on strict law enforcement – this happens to be in the domain of State governments – are the two great guarantors of secularism but they will not lead to success unless the leaders indulging in the false rhetoric about minorities not feeling 'safe' in India were silenced through stern legal action.
The second reason for how the 'Muslim factor' in India is beginning to affect the security domain is linked to the deliberate attempt of the detractors of Modi to project Kashmir problem through a communal prism. This is now being taken to an extreme with Mehbooba Mufti Chief Minister at the head of a coalition with BJP in J&K, advocating talks with Pakistan to 'save' India from cross border terrorism and the Pak- instigated stone pelting. Instead of embracing people of all regions and communities in the integral state of J&K the Chief Minister has remained preoccupied with preserving her political future with the help of separatists whose sell out to Pakistan had now been totally exposed. In raising the desperate plea that 'war is not an option' in dealing with Pakistan she is oblivious of the fact that Pakistan was itself not keen to take on India in an open war and was therefore taking recourse to 'proxy war' by using militants brought up on faith- based indoctrination as the substitute for regular soldiers. A leader who rules J&K has to know the difference between 'war' and 'proxy war'. Mehbooba Mufti's deliberate refusal to uphold Indian Army's operations against infiltrated terrorists is now weakening India's internal security. Common Kashmiris – if only they were left alone by the pro-Pak separatist leaders of the valley parties – would have no difficulty in identifying themselves with democratic India. Centre's Kashmir policy is being put in jeopardy at a time when Kashmir had become the focal point of both external and internal threats to our security. A coalition government defying the Centre's Kashmir policy is an embarrassment for India abroad.
The third disconcerting development that impinges on India's security is the critique that anti-Modi voices are building up against the present regime's Pakistan policy. A straightforward stand that talks with Pakistan could not be entertained till that country stopped cross border terrorism against India in Kashmir and elsewhere is being obfuscated. Clearly a collusion between the Opposition and the leadership of the minority- out of vote bank politics- is there for everybody to see. Democratic politics should have pushed away Pakistan from the thought processes of Indian Muslims but today's Minority politics in India has emboldened Pakistan to claim an interest in the community's affairs here even though the reality of India is that Muslims as equal citizens of this country had the same economic and day to day concerns as members of other communities here had. Sino-Pak axis has emboldened Pakistan to become more aggressive in pursuing its 'proxy war' aims against India.
Also the snub Pakistan has received from President Donald Trump for providing safe havens to terrorists across the Islamic spectrum, has led the recalcitrant Pak army to give a message to the US that so long as there was trouble on its eastern border it would not be able to concentrate on the Pak-Afgan front. The atmosphere of intense 'Islamisation' in Pakistan and the Pak army's close collaboration with militant outfits has had a dwindling effect on the 'peace constituency' in that country. The peaceniks of India who talk of 'people to people contact' between the two countries are barking up the wrong tree. India's handling of Pakistan requires a reiteration of its Kashmir policy, building up of strategic partnerships against Sino-Pak alliance and strong arm measures to control the Fifth Column at home.
(The writer is a former Director Intelligence Bureau)