Sikh Incident and India's Chakravyuh: Shaping the Indo-Pacific's Future
The New York Times reported yesterday that US intelligence agencies provided information to their Canadian counterparts, helping them deduce India's alleged role in the assassination of a Sikh separatist leader in Vancouver. While the US played a supporting role, it was Canada that sourced the pivotal intelligence which prompted them to directly accuse India of masterminding the incident, say Western officials. This revelation has strained diplomatic ties, resulting in both Ottawa and New Delhi expelling each other's intelligence officers, and India halting visa services for Canadians. If these allegations hold water, they signify a stark deviation from the democratic values and human rights standards upheld by the West. Such discord poses a challenge, potentially freezing or at least delaying India's anticipated alignment with the US in its Indo-Pacific strategy, which seeks to counterbalance China's rising influence and potential aggressive maneuvers in regions like Taiwan and the South China Sea. Furthermore, this incident underscores underlying tensions within India, hinting at racial or religious fault lines. This situation compels us to revisit both Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations" and Fukuyama's later work, "Identity."
India's Identity Facade: The Push to Rename the Country as "Bharat"
The diplomatic friction between Canada and India over recent events has deeper implications than many initially perceived in the realm of Indian politics and broader South Asian relations. US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken urged India to aid Canada's investigation into the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian Sikh separatist leader advocating for an independent Sikh-majority region in India. While the US often shares intelligence, such as intercepted communications, with close allies like Canada, the disclosure of its involvement might challenge its nascent rapport with India. Nijjar had been warned by Canadian authorities about potential threats prior to the incident, and his demise has intensified the diplomatic standoff, resulting in mutual ejections of intelligence personnel and India's suspension of visas for Canadians. The alleged covert lethal action by one democratic nation within another has taken Washington by surprise. Simultaneously, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been reserved about the precise nature of the intelligence, although the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation alludes to intercepted exchanges from Indian diplomats.
The Sikh separatist movement, centred in Punjab, has long challenged the Indian central government. It reached its zenith in the 1980s and 1990s, advocating for a separate Sikh nation named Khalistan. While its fervour has subsided, sporadic support remains. Hardeep Singh Nijjar's assassination in Canada, a staunch supporter of Sikh regional independence, underscores the tenacity of these sentiments. With Nijjar's pronounced Khalistan advocacy, his demise provides a potentially telling glimpse into India's perturbed stance on Sikh separatism.
Concurrently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's tenure is marked by a conspicuous bolstering of Hindu identity, sometimes overshadowing India's diverse tapestry. Historic city renamings, detached from their Mughal or colonial legacies, evince a move towards a dominant Hindu narrative. Foremost in this reshaping is the potential switch from "India" to "Bharat". Rooted in ancient Sanskrit, "Bharat" harkens to territories predating present-day India. The BJP sees this as a return to pre-colonial identity, but critics decry it as an erasure of multifaceted histories. This ideological pivot, combined with India's possible role in Nijjar's assassination, reflects the challenges of nation-building in an age of identity politics, with the repercussions echoing beyond India's borders.
India's Identity Mosaic: Conflict or Cohesion?
India's intricate sociopolitical tapestry is interwoven with threads of its historic legacies, myriad identities, and persistent regional aspirations. Spanning religious, ethnic, linguistic, and ideological spheres, India's struggles with identity-based movements have been both a testament to its diverse fabric and a challenge to its cohesive governance.
The Red Corridor: Heartland of the Naxalite–Maoist Insurgency. [source]
At the fore is the Khalistan Movement, anchored in Sikh identity, which reached its zenith in the 1980s, evidenced by landmark events like Operation Blue Star and the ensuing anti-Sikh riots. The Tamil insurgency, while driven by linguistic and ethnic roots, remained a predominantly political endeavour in Tamil Nadu, contrasting starkly with the LTTE's militant pursuits in the Sri Lankan Civil War. In the eastern stretches, the Naxalite-Maoist insurgency, steered by communist principles, voices grievances against deep-seated socio-economic disparities. The North-Eastern states juggle multifaceted insurgencies — from the ULFA's aspirations in Assam to the NSCN's in Nagaland — all rooted in regional and ethnic identities and a perception of central neglect. Jammu & Kashmir, a cauldron of territorial, religious, and ethnic disputes, presents one of the most intricate challenges. Movements such as Gorkhaland and Bodoland emerge from linguistic and ethnic aspirations, respectively, in the Darjeeling hills and Assam. Overlaying this complex mosaic are periodic Hindu-Muslim tensions, punctuated by issues like cow protection, religious conversions, and landmark disputes such as Ayodhya.
While these movements ebb and flow in intensity and form, Narendra Modi's tenure has been marked by a robust push for a strengthened Hindu identity, arguably further complicating India's delicate internal dynamics. The challenges of these identity movements vary widely, with some remaining political while others veer into armed conflict. Throughout, New Delhi has oscillated between negotiations, political solutions, and heightened security responses in its attempts to weave together the nation's diverse strands into a unified whole.
Identity and Cultural Conundrum
Transitioning from the intricate weave of India's socio-political landscape, we venture into a comprehensive geopolitical panorama, rooted in seminal political ideologies. Huntington's postulation in "Clash of Civilizations" brought to the fore the potent undercurrents of cultural and religious identities as primary catalysts for conflict in the post-Cold War era. Paralleling this, Fukuyama, in his introspective analysis—and with shades of Plato's musings—highlights the profound human yearning for recognition, placing identity at the epicenter of contemporary political dialogues.
Based on its intricate data survey, the World Values Survey (WVS) offers a nuanced and refined perspective on cultural and identity demarcation, surpassing the simplicity of Huntington's framework. Utilizing dimensions of tradition vs. secularism and survival vs. self-expression, the World Values Survey paints a clearer picture of cultural demarcations, anchored in linguistic and religious contexts. With categories such as African-Islamic, Latin-America, West and South Asia, and various European classifications, there are intriguing overlaps: Chile's positioning mirrors that of West and South Asia, while India's survival-focused values align more with the African-Islamic group. Interestingly, while Confucian values might clash with 'Western' ones on self-expression, they converge on matters of secularism. [source]
The World Values Survey (WVS) underscores this idea, delineating nations across spectrums: from the traditional vs. secular to the survival vs. self-expression dichotomies. Augmented by linguistic and religious markers, it sketches vivid geopolitical clusters such as African-Islamic, Latin-America, and Confucian, among others. Within these definitions, nuances emerge: Chile finds resonance with West and South Asia due to its balanced stance on both matrices, while India's survivalist leanings mirror those of the African-Islamic bloc. Notably, while the Confucian realm may spar with the West on self-expression, their secular ideals harmonize. These matrices intricately illustrate the multifaceted dance of global geopolitics, where identity often takes center stage.
Taking a leaf from Fukuyama's "Identity," his discourse on the "Revolutions of Dignity" traces a lineage of events from the French Revolution to catalytic occurrences like the Arab Spring. A recurring motif is Thymos—a quest for recognition, aligning with Hegel's "isothymia." The intrigue in Hegel's "Phenomenology of Spirit" is palpable. Beyond his storied reference to Napoleon's victory at Jena as the historical denouement, Hegel's treatise weaves around the human quest for recognition (Anerkennung). Yet, his seeming tangential engagement with 'agape'—unconditional love—especially when juxtaposed against poetic masterpieces like Romeo & Juliet, hints at a nuanced aesthetic appreciation, somewhat bypassing its profound philosophical implications.
In our 'governance analytics framework', culture and identity critically influence the equilibrium of governance, driven by a triad: 'strong state', 'rule of law', and 'democratic accountability'. While India, shaped by its British colonial legacy, has cultivated these three pillars, its cultural and identity dynamics, especially PM Modi's recent emphasis on a Hindu-centric agenda, present significant challenges to this delicate balance.
This perspective on love and sacrifice, which resounds with the essence of 'agape', showcases a potential oversight in Hegel's philosophy. Fukuyama, while dissecting motivations behind acts of profound commitment such as those by suicide bombers, leans heavily into sentiments like rage and the Thymos-driven quest for recognition—limiting in scope especially when Eastern philosophies beckon with more expansive vistas.
Hegel's deliberate or inadvertent exclusions have ruffled academic feathers. Intellectuals like Kierkegaard have voiced their dissent over Hegel's grand narrative overshadowing individual experiences. The subsequent emergence of existentialism and phenomenology bore testament to this. Such rigorous examinations not only place Hegel under the lens but also cast aspersions on Marx, given the deep Hegelian roots in his thought. To truly fathom such philosophical labyrinths, a direct communion with stalwarts like Kant is imperative.
Understanding the variances among political theology, philosophy, and science offers deeper insights. While the first duo is value-driven, the latter prides itself on its value-neutrality. Huntington's dissection of identity exemplifies this delicate balance—projecting identity as complex and dynamic, influenced by myriad factors from ethics to environment.
In our exploration of geopolitical dynamics, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region, recent incidents echo past historical milestones, reminiscent of India's intervention in Pakistan's East Pakistan crisis that birthed Bangladesh. The U.S. grand strategy for the Indo-Pacific will inevitably be reshaped by such developments, much as major power interventions of the past have redefined regional balances. India, as the colossus of South Asia, often finds itself in a delicate dance of love and hate with neighboring nations, shaped by a history of identity conflicts, both domestic and international. To truly appreciate these nuanced interactions, it's essential to delve deep into foundational philosophies and draw insights from luminaries like Marx, Hegel, and Kant. By anchoring our analysis in such profound thoughts, contemporary perspectives that merely echo without offering fresh insights are laid bare. This commitment to depth and originality epitomizes our 'radical critique'.