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India's unifying and disunifying elements

BY: Nuray | Category: Politics | Post Date: 2009-12-18

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Ethnicity and religious factors still govern India's geographic region while economic disparity is diving the nation further among the super rich and the poverty stricken populace. For India to reach a power status it must solve its relations with its neighbors the solve the economic problems in its own society.

India finds itself torn between disunifying and unifying forces. The society remains stratified into castes as the poor remain at the lowest end of the economic strata while the wealthy are at the top. Added to this is India's recent past of inheriting a divided subcontinent as a result of the British imperialist system that had divided the region into an ethnic conflict zone mainly between Muslims and Hindus which is still felt today.

Partition and secession were not completed by 1947 after independence. They continued to obsess the governments of both Pakistan and India. In fact the consequences of the first partition have influenced foreign relations and slewed the economic development of both India and Pakistan. The first test for the Indian armed forces came shortly after independence with the first Indo-Pakistani conflict (1947-48) over Kashmir. The second Indo-Pakistani conflict (1965) was also fought over Kashmir and started without a formal declaration of war. It is widely accepted that the war began with the infiltration of Pakistani-controlled guerrillas into Indian Kashmir on about August 5, 1965. The third Indo-Pakistani conflict (1971) was over East Pakistan which eventually would become Bangladesh.

It is unfortunate that ethnicity and the religious factors govern India's geographic region. In the aftermath of independence killings between Muslims and Hindus followed. The killings spread even to New Delhi in 1947 where non-Muslims who cheered independence a few days earlier turned on their Muslim neighbors with knife and club. Two hundred thousand at least, possibly as many as a million, were massacred between August and October in the Punjab partition and associated riots.

To avoid more partitions Indian subdued its remaining Muslim population by force. TO Nehru it was unthinkable that Hyderabad should not join India. Indian troops rolled across the state borders. A strong arm India tactics had been used in the state of Jammu and Kashmir as the first Indo-Pakistan war began over Kashmir (1947-1948). In 1948 the UN brokered a cease-fire and a ceasefire line remained but it obeys no geographic or strategic logic. Neither side recognizes the partition.

During the Cold War that started after 1945 and throughout the 1960s and 1970s the big powers, the US and USSR played on India's disunfying elements. The Chinese and the Americans vied for Pakistan's favor and the Russians for India's. Then in the late 1980s pan-Islamist revivalists encouraged by their success in Afghanistan saw in Kashmir another potential jihad (holy resistance). To this threat India's security forces and its resurgent Hindu Ďnationalists' obligingly responded thus ensuring the stratification of Indian society into conflicting forces.

Thus despite India's democracy and federalism it is difficult to contain ethnic separatism. Although India seeks to be a major power in Asia, the country still faces domestic and external challenges that constitute an obstacle to obtain a power status. These problems include economic disparity and its fractious internal politics. By late August 2008 according to the World Bank absolute poverty persists while the rise of prices of petrol and food had been a blow to India's economy.

Although India had been successful in information technology as well as economic sectors and had high rates of economic growth, these will not alone result in the reduction of endemic poverty. India has to go beyond market oriented growth strategies and device public policies such as investing more in primary education and health care. India cannot emerge as a great power with economic disparity and social inequality.

Added to this is the persistent treatment of Muslims as second class citizens. Muslims were object of violence since the 1980s. They have been poorly represented in government employment. The insurgency in Kashmir and dislocations of Muslims enhanced homegrown Islamist extremism. Muslims who compose India's largest minority feel threatened from the rise of Hindu nationalist movement. India must promote social and cultural reforms among the Muslim community, otherwise the fractious internal politics will continue to affect its economy and its relation with its Muslim neighbors.

India has an obligation to reform its society and as analyst Sumit Ganguly said:
So long as India remains weighed down by its various burdens and lacks a national consensus on critical policies pertaining to economic growth, poverty alleviation, secularism, and relations with contentious neighbors- it inevitably will fail to realize its potential for great power status.

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