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Indian Civilizationalism: A Potential Next Flashpoint?

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Indian Civilizationalism: A Potential Next Flashpoint?

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi. Photo Credit: India PM Office

Written by James M. Dorsey

When Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, he laid down a marker for a critical mass of world leaders who, like him, think in civilizational rather than national terms.

In the minds of these leaders, the stakes in Ukraine are about much more than the future of a former Soviet republic or the rejiggering of Europe’s security architecture.

Much like Mr. Putin’s ambition to establish a Russian world that is defined by the geography of Russian speakers and adherents of Russian culture rather than internationally recognized boundaries, men like Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi envision a 21st-century world order in which civilisationalist aspirations trump national sovereignty, freedoms, and minority rights.

To them, creating a 21st-century world order involves coercion and potentially, if need be, the use of military force to redraw maps to suit their, at times, downplayed aspirations.

It comes at the expense of the independence of countries like Ukraine, the rights of littoral states in the South China Sea and ethnic and religious minorities like Indian and Chinese Turkic Muslims, and potentially much of non-Indian South Asia.

No doubt Messrs. Xi and Modi are eyeing Ukraine closely for lessons learned. Mr. Putin has crossed a Rubicon at tremendous human, political and economic costs with no immediate potential reversal.

Mr. Xi has other immediate fish to fry. He is unlikely to cross a similar Rubicon any time soon to achieve his ambitions in the South China Sea and Beijing’s One China policy that views Taiwan as an integral part of the mainland.

Neither is Mr. Modi, whose ideological home embraces the concept of Akhand Bharat or an India that stretches from Afghanistan to Myanmar and encompasses nuclear-armed Pakistan as well as Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives.

US and European diplomats take heart from the fact that since first becoming prime minister in 2014, Mr. Modi has refrained from publicly referencing Hindu nationalist geopolitical ambitions. He seemingly last spoke publicly about those ambitions in an interview in 2012 when, as Chief Minister of Gujarat, he suggested that “Hindustan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh should rejoin.”

Nevertheless, one lesson the war in Ukraine offers is that the United States, Europe, and their Asian allies at their peril take civilisationalist aspirations lightly.

Despite warnings by US intelligence and statements by civilisationalist, nationalist and far-right voices in Mr. Putin’s immediate entourage, many wrongly believed that the Russian leader was playing bluff poker in the run-up to the invasion but would not send troops into Ukraine.

“Although the notion of a Hindu Rashtra (Hindu Nation) may seem far-fetched today, the same was said of Putin’s expansionist ambitions until recently,” said political scientist and journalist Sushant Singh.

Six weeks into the Ukraine invasion, a prominent militant Hindu nationalist with close ties to Mr. Modi predicted, in the first indication of a timeline, that the aspirations of the Hindu nation could be achieved in the next 15 years.

“You spoke about 20-25 years, but if we increase our speed, I say 10-15 years… I do not have the power at all…it is with people. They have the control. When they are ready, everyone’s behaviour changes. We are preparing them… We will walk together as an example, without fear. We will talk about non-violence, but we will walk with a stick. And that stick will be a heavy one,” said Mohan Bhagwat, the leader of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

The RSS, with some six million members, is Mr. Modi’s political cradle that gave birth to his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Founded almost a century ago, the RSS is a militant, right-wing Hindu nationalist paramilitary volunteer organisation.

Mr. Singh noted that RSS schools across India teach the concept of Akhand Bharat. Moreover, an RSS publisher produces a map of India’s “holy land” that includes Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Tibet.

Mr. Modi’s policies, including his 2019 amended citizenship law that provides a pathway for citizenship to Hindus from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan but not to Muslims, as well as the stripping that year of the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim majority state, seemed to be nods towards Akhand Bharat.

India’s Muslims constitute the world’s third-largest Muslim community and account for 14 per cent of India’s 1.4 billion population.

It may be a long shot, but Mr. Modi could be the one major civilisationalist leader with whom engagement has a chance of containing, if not taming, whatever irredentist instincts he may have. Those instincts likely constitute one reason why India has sought to walk a middle road in the Ukraine crisis.

In contrast to Russia and China, with whom battles lines have been or are being drawn, engagement with India by the United States, Europe, Japan, South Korea, and other Asian states is based for a good part on a perceived shared geopolitical interest to counter the rise of China in the Indo-Pacific.

In a broadening of engagement that goes beyond existing close economic and political ties, including the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has invited Mr. Modi to attend a summit in June of the Group of 7 (G-7) in the Bavarian Alps.

The Quad is a strategic security dialogue between Australia, India, Japan, and the United States, while the G-7 groups Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain, and the United States.

In another positive sign of engagement, Hindu and Muslim religious leaders and religious nationalists are quietly exploring whether they can find common ground in shared humanitarian values.

RSS executive committee member and former BJP secretary-general Ram Madhav said in an interview last week with this writer that “Eastern civilizations (and) Eastern religions all share the same civilizational value system.” Mr. Madhav referenced Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, and ‘an Islam with an Eastern value system like Indonesian Islam.’”

Mr. Madhav, widely viewed as a moderate among Hindu nationalists, was referring to a concept of Humanitarian Islam put forward by Nahdlatul Ulama, the world and Indonesia’s largest Muslim civil society movement.

Nahdlatul Ulama advocates reform of what it calls “obsolete” and “problematic” elements of Islamic law, including those that encourage segregation, discrimination, and/or violence towards anyone perceived to be a non-Muslim. It further accepts the Universal Declaration of Human Rights without reservations and envisions inter-faith relations based on shared common values.

Mr. Madhav spoke on the eve of his second visit to Indonesia in two years for talks with Nahdlatul Ulama.

“Maybe we all can stand up and talk about these values…commit ourselves to those values including respect for pluralism, inclusivity, and commitment to the nation-state idea, (and) patriotism… If something can be worked out jointly, we would be definitely happy to do that,” Mr. Madhav said.

In Mr. Madhav’s mind, the RSS’s vision of Hindu nationalism or Hindutava already incorporates principles of humanitarianism as articulated by Nahdlatul Ulama .

The movement’s critics reject that assertion. Moreover, the RSS’s alleged association with widespread inter-communal violence and perceived discrimination of Indian Muslims calls it into question.

Dr. James M. Dorsey is an award-winning journalist and scholar, a Senior Fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute and Adjunct Senior Fellow at Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, and the author of the syndicated column and blog.


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Greg Schofield

Dr. James M. Dorsey appears to conflate abstractions with concrete aspirations and neglect the actual geopolitical and economic realities. An inversion of importance.

Civilisation , as shared culture, is a common aspect of history the Anglo core of the American alliance shows just how flexible this is. Sometimes including Europe and extending to select Asian friends. Too much awarded to too little, a grappling with aspects that have some role but is no more than a bias of some but no critical import.


Modi team is a Nazis lover btw. India, still buying Russian gas and wheat/trade, the West said nothing really. But in the case of Pakistan, they got the regime change. Turkey got shit for buying Russian air defense systems – India was welcome by the West to buy Russian air defense systems.

The US and NATO were even planning to send Turkey’s S-400 systems to Ukraine – They didn’t mention India. The Nazi Indians are openly killing Muslims in India and the West said fuk all about it but if China takes a similar move the whole of the West jumps up and down like apes.

Taiwan is part of China – no Asia country is stupid to start a war for yanquis, not even the Japanese (as of right now). Yeah…India is the cow of the West and they are going to milk these morons, not milk but their blood.

Side note: India banned the export of wheat.

Chris Gr

I got it. You are Paki.


Nice try, but no. I’m one of the people here who very much dislike Pakistan mainly because of their relationship with the Taliban, TTP, and Wahhabis. Matter of fact, any country that let Wahhabis build a “Mosques”. You can see how corrupt their government is as well.

That is a side, you missed my point clown. You aren’t really good at guessing, Zion slave.

I think you are stupid and can’t get a hint, so let me give you more hints. Have you read this? “Ground-Based Intermediate-Range Missiles in the Indo-Pacific”. https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RRA393-3.html

I believe you are one of those people who can’t really read long pieces. Short story, “The US government funded a RAND Corporation report to determine which nation in the Indo-Pacific region would be suitable for hosting US missiles aimed at China.” The answer was “none.”

Now can you rtded Zion slave understand my first comment? Do you understand what I’m putting down? India and Indians are perfect for…


Indians are the folks we consistently has proven themselves to be slaves of others. Given its ancient superstitious ideology, looking for some one strong to follow … is a strong tendency among hinduistic tribes.

S Balu

Bobby Absolutely correct PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING

Reading the history of East India Company Englishman observed at Varanasi that Indians would make EXCELLENT BABUS and CAN EASILY HYPED UP BY RELIGIOUS FERVOR ie India is ripe for colonization based on religious divide and rule game What he meant by Excellent Babu was that Indians under Englishman command will meticulously obey the order Work under him and follow the written instructions to the last dot BUT AN INDIAN IS UNABLE TO HANDLE POWER AND DISPERSE IT EVENLY This can be observed how Indians Behavior at recent UNSC debate on Afghanistan under Indian Presidency whereby It stooped so low as to deny Pakistan right to address UNSC Debate as Pakistan is stake holder in stability of Afghanistan It is evident in Britain with Priti Patel as The Home Secretary And her behavior and arrogance and see how she leading the campaign to send Refugees to Rwanda Same with Rishi Sunak,Alok Sharma etc In India you can observe the Modi’s behavior and BJP arrogance towards minorities Remember that Indians have always been ruled for last 5000 years By outsiders only last 70 years they are ruling and you can see the mess they are making BUT THEY ARE STILL GOING TO BE INDIAN BABUS FOR WHITEMEN FOR MANY CENTURIES

Chris Gr

Stop saying inconcistencies mr Mughal sperm. Pakistan is ripe with jihadistic organizations.

S Balu

JJ345 Chris Gr is deeply disturbed person who by his own admission confirmed that he has.TURKISH DNA LIKE 80-85% of PRESENT GREEK POPULATION BY MAKING RACIST COMMENTS HE FEELS GOOD THUS HE CAN HIDE THE SCIENTIFIC FACT

Chris Gr

Racist comments. lol Pakis, just like Palestinians are acting like religious lunatics. Turks and Azeris have more nationalistic fervor rather than jihadistic.

Chris Gr

India is in BRICS. How will it help US attack China? US is left with Japan alone.


What about BRICS would stop The US of Zion from pushing India into a war with China, go on?

Chris Gr

Is this your dream?


Are you a child? This is The US of Zion dream clown.

You are really stupid or you lie to yourself if you really think that is not true. In the past few years, The US of Zion has tried so hard to disconnect Asia, Indo-Pacific, and Australia from China. AUKUS, Ground-Based Intermediate-Range Missiles in the Indo-Pacific, etc. Even SF mentioned how The US of Zion is pushing Asia-India-Pacific countries into a war with China. “BIDEN’S SUMMIT PUSHES ASEAN TO CONFRONT CHINA, RUNS COUNTER TO THEIR INTEREST”

Really clown? Are you here saying it is my “dream”? Go fuk yourself bitch. You are so full of shit. The US of Zion said openly that yanquis’ enemy is China, and both Trump and Biden said it openly. But none of those Asian-Pacific countries can fight China – this is not China back from WWII anymore. The only country that can start a war with China is India and after that, The US of Zion send in money and weapons to India and let the other Asia-Pacific countries in some way attack China as well.

Fun fact: When you were in form of cum inside your mother – 8 years ago we also said Ukraine and Russia going to head into war. Was it that hard to guess that? No, it wasn’t. Now The US of Zion openly saying they want a pig country to attack China and the US will aid them. Clown.

Chris Gr

The rage of the basement dweller. Please stop projecting. Actually, the Biden team is against the Modi government and also the Bolsonaro government so what does this mean? If India fights against China will fight alone. Trump is another case.

Yes, it seemed that Ukraine and Russia would go to a war, at least not that wide.

S Balu

Chris Gr You would do anything to prove that you a Greek when with your own confession You have Turkish DNA SHOWS YOU DO NOT RESPECT YOURSELF

Chris Gr

I don’t have Mongol DNA. Only DNA from Asia Minor.

S Balu

Chris Gr Could please let us know present day county’s name please

Chris Gr


Lazy Gamer

Expansionist religions should be forgotten. They are a massive catalyst for conflict.

Peppe il Sicario

Another “article” written by Dr. James Dorkey! Nothing to see here, people! Move on, next!!

Paul Citro

That is one way of looking at it. Here’s another way. Many countries have been watching what the US does; invading, sanctioning, bombing, coup-ing other countries and doing this for decades. They are very wary of us. They watched Libya give up its nuclear program and be promptly crushed. Try reflecting on this and seeing things from other’s perspectives.


Eurasia: Hindutva India under fanatic fascist BJP RSS is a menace to mankind and world peace, like a toxic malignant cancer tumor.

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