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Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 22.1-2 (2002) 76-89

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Engendering Post-Colonial Nuclear Policies Through the Lens of Hindutva:

Rethinking the Security Paradigm of India

On 18 July 2002, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) nominated APJ Abdul Kalam as the twelfth president of India1 —an act quite emblematic of the spirit of the Indian constitution, which describes India as a secular state. Indeed, India has had Muslim presidents in the past, Zakir Hussain and Fakhruddin Ali, both nominated when the Congress (I), now called the Congress party, was in power as the ruling party in India. However, for anyone cognizant of the Hindu revivalist background and rhetoric upheld by the BJP (although such rhetoric is currently greatly moderated for electoral purposes), its support to nominate Kalam—a Muslim—as the president of India does not quite fit the picture.2 His nomination became all the more noteworthy when the Doordarshan (All India Television Network) as well as other media reports forwarded comments made by BJP politicians and activists saying, "Kalam is a person better versed in the Bhagwad Gita than a Hindu and who plays the rudra veena (a musical instrument sacred to the Hindu culture) better than a Hindu."3 In the phrase coined by Murli Manohar Joshi, who currently heads the Ministry of Science and Technology in India, "Kalam has never been considered a Muslim."4 Although several representatives from the Islamic community in India have expressed the secular sentiment, "...whether he reads the Quran or the Gita is for him to decide...(and) should not be dragged into public life...,"5 the BJP's support to nominate an apparently Muslim but nonreligious person who also happens to be a nuclear scientist and therefore a nonpolitical person into the presidency raises concern.

Should one assume that the BJP nominated Kalam because of his achievements at the Indian Space Research Organization or, because the BJP, following the government-sanctioned anti-Muslim carnage at Gujarat in April 2002,6 simply wanted to placate Muslims as a gesture towards the latter's security?7 Was the nomination of Kalam a political strategy adopted by the BJP to project an apparently benign and secular posture (thus consolidating its support as an electoral and social force in India) while more covertly carving out a space for supporting a communalist-nationalist agenda? Given that the Muslim threat becomes the ideological locus through which the BJP attempts to rebuild a Hindu nationalist India, does the nomination of Kalam signify at a more interpretive level a complex interrelation between ideology, religious nationalism, security, and politics? If so, what could be some of the implications of this Hindu nationalism vis-à-vis Islamic Pakistan and India's national and regional security concerns?

Of particular interest in this article are the roles of the contemporary Hindu right government in India and religious nationalism, expressed here as Hindutva, in shaping the contemporary nuclear security problematic of India. In investigating this link, I raise the following questions: Does the recent rise of Hindu nationalism in India conflate the multicultural and secular nation of India into a monolithic Hindu nationalist identity? Does this conflation signify a conceptual merger of Hindu nationalism with the Indian state, nation, and the secular Indian nationalism? If so, what implications may this conceptual merger have on constructing Pakistan as a security threat, Other, to the supposedly Hindu India? Does it re-enforce a state-centric version of security as opposed to a people-centric view of security? Does it re-enforce Othering along communal and gender lines in terms of India's national and regional security concerns? At a broader level, if theorizing in international relations (IR) and policy implications in international security studies seek to move towards conflict resolution, then should the role of ideology in the form of religious nationalism/ communalism that constructs insecurity "scapes/imaginaries," through a discursive process of...


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