BJP’s manifesto outlines path ahead for ‘Bharat’ : The Tribune India

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BJP’s manifesto outlines path ahead for ‘Bharat’

At the time of the Partition, the Muslim League had argued that ‘India’ was a thing of the past and the two 'successor' states should be known as ’Pakistan’ and ‘Hindustan'’.

BJP’s manifesto outlines path ahead for ‘Bharat’

Nomenclature: One of the striking aspects in the English version of the manifesto is the repeated use of the word ‘Bharat’ ANI

Vivek Katju

Former Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs

AMID expectations that the BJP will win the Lok Sabha elections and PM Narendra Modi will retain power, foreign governments and Indian analysts are closely studying the external affairs sections of the party’s manifesto. The document lists the Modi government’s foreign policy achievements over the past decade and highlights the goals for the years to come.

The first striking aspect is the repeated use of the word ‘Bharat’ in the English version of the manifesto. This applies to the foreign policy sections as well. It has now become common for the Modi government to use the word ‘Bharat’ instead of ‘India’, in many settings, while referring to the country. Apart from the constitutional primacy of the word ‘India’ in English, this country’s current international personality is also founded on that word. That is how India is known the world over, and that is the name used for it in the United Nations (UN). However, some Indian leaders have referred to India as ‘Bharat’ while using the English language. Perhaps the most notable case was that of President Droupadi Murmu, whose G20 invite to foreign leaders last year described her as the ‘President of Bharat’.

Countries do change their names. For instance, Myanmar — which was earlier known as Burma — changed it in 1989 and informed the UN about the same. There are no commonly accepted global rules for countries to change their names. Sovereign states only need to inform the international community, and the name change is accepted. Naturally, governments have to fulfil internal constitutional processes for the purpose. In Myanmar’s case, many Western countries continued to refer to it as Burma because they did not recognise the military government which had changed the name.

The question that some observers will ask is: Will the Modi government, in its third term, seek to bring in constitutional changes to modify the country’s name to ‘Bharat’ in English? This will be in line with its ideology. Naturally, once the constitutional changes are made, no external power will have any problem dropping the word ‘India’ and only using ‘Bharat’. Pakistan will be happy with our country being known as ‘Bharat’ because, at the time of the Partition, the Muslim League had argued that ‘India’ was a thing of the past and the two ‘successor’ states should be known as ‘Pakistan’ and ‘Hindustan’.

A section of the manifesto, entitled ‘Bharat on the global stage’, lists out 11 achievements of the government. At the top of the list are the successful evacuation of Indians from war zones and the hosting of the G20 summit. There is no doubt that the outcome document of the summit amid the polarised global atmosphere was a diplomatic achievement, as was the success in bringing Indians in distress back home from conflict areas. However, previous governments also came to the rescue of Indians in difficult times. Also, the Modi government has claimed credit for being the voice of the Global South. It is true that many countries in the Global South look up to India, but there is nothing unique about this. New Delhi’s role in decolonisation and its leadership in securing the interests of the Global South in its different iterations — Third World, underdeveloped and developing countries — has been accepted through the decades.

The title of one section — ‘Modi ki Guarantee for Vishwa Bandhu Bharat’ — is interesting, for it is not India that is giving a guarantee that it will act in the interests of the world but PM Modi. Indeed, just as he has given guarantees to the Indian people, he is doing so for the world. It is also noteworthy that the word ‘Vishwaguru’ has not been used. The last sentence of the introduction to this section states: “We will strengthen our position and conduct our policies to further our national interests with the spirit of Vishwa Bandhu.” In other words, Modi has guaranteed that India will seek to reconcile Indian interests with those of the world and shun the path of pursuing naked national interests. The PM is showing a noble instinct, but is it practical in a world order that is under challenge? Besides, how does it square with the assertion of a ‘Bharat First’ foreign policy?

Eight of the 10 objectives and paths to pursue mentioned in the section are not new. For example, India’s aim of becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council and strengthening global cooperation against terrorism has been part of its diplomatic agenda for the past three decades. It is laudable that the BJP would seek to build partnerships for mineral security, for it is essential to promote manufacturing. However, the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor is a project that will be difficult to implement. And the pursuit of the Neighbourhood First policy is challenging because of the ingress of China into India’s immediate neighbourhood. It is good that External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has consistently acknowledged this fact, but mere acknowledgement does not push India’s interests.

In the third section on foreign policy, the manifesto focuses on the promotion of Indian soft power. The first point relates to the establishment of Thiruvalluvar cultural centres to promote Indian cultural traditions. It is not clear if these will be different from the current Indian cultural centres that are performing the exact functions. Will the latter be renamed, or will both exist simultaneously?

The manifesto says, “We will launch a global outreach programme for documenting and promoting the tangible and intangible legacy of Lord Ram in all countries.” This can be controversial, as the Ramayana has several variants in Southeast Asia that are vastly different from the version accepted in India. How will the BJP deal with the controversies that such versions will inevitably generate?

#Bharat #BJP #Lok Sabha #Narendra Modi #Pakistan

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