It is encouraging to know that the RSS backs the dialogue the Narendra Modi regime is seeking to put on track with Pakistan. But Dattatreya Hosbale’s statement delineating the Sangh’s support looks prone to unhelpful interpretations.
The Mahabharata parallel the Sangh official drew of the Pandavas and Kauravas to explain the adversarial India-Pakistan ties could be problematic. Sceptics and chronic India bashers across the border would relate it to what the Sangh calls the sub-continental Muslims’ “Hindu ancestry".
Take for example the Kashmir issue. Pakistan claims it on the basis of religion. Its ideology is Jinnah’s two-nation theory that defines Hindus and Muslims as distinct religious nationalities. It was that construct that our Constitution makers countered post-partition by declaring India a non-denominational secular state.
In that context, the aberration built into Hosbale’s grasp of mythology, as opposed to history, is worrisome. Time alone would tell whether the formulation is deliberate or accidental. The signals it has sent out are confusing.
What debilitates further the RSS’s perceived new approach to Pakistan is the fact that the analogy came after the meeting where the Sangh affiliates deliberated also the census that showed the Hindus slipping under the ‘psychological’ 80% share of the country’s population. There has simultaneously been a marginal increase in the Muslim count.
The RSS is within its rights to be concerned over the majority community’s diminished denomination. But while endorsing dialogue with Islamabad, it needs to be conscious that India’s claim over Kashmir -- against the ideological opposite that's Pakistan -- is based on its non-denominational secular status.
The Indian position was pithily expressed by former external affairs minister Jaswant Singh before the failed Agra Summit of the late 1990s: “What they call the core dispute (of Kashmir) is at the core of our nationhood. Its cogency came from the historical Indian argument that a Muslim majority province can be integral to a state that has no religion but where all religions can he freely practised and propagated.
Consequently, Hosbale and his mentors and peers in the RSS, while supporting talks with Pakistan must preserve the raison d'être, the idea that gives India the moral high ground to negate the rival claim on Kashmir. It's for them no easy task. For they have forever propagated religious nationalism, holding as much the view that converts can’t be a nation.
By advocating talks, the RSS has acknowledged at least the reality of Pakistan. The way forward for it is the path Vajpayee traversed, albeit with meagre results, including his historic visit in Lahore to the memorial to the Pakistan movement -- the Minar-e-Pakistan. When dissuaded by a party colleague that the visit would put his stamp on Pakistan, he had retorted : “Pakistan ko meri mohar ki kya zaroorat, uski apni mohar hai jo chal rahi hai.
The comment was at once an acceptance of the reality and sovereignty of Pakistan. The principle it enunciates applies as much to other countries in the region.
Calling Saarc members a “family" and Pakistan and Bangladesh “parts of our body" is fine until it isn't an improvisation to contemporize the Sangh’s idea of Akhand Bharat.
The grouping, if it works, can at best be a bloc of countries with shared security and economic objectives. It can be one market with one currency, but not one country or one nation.