Expansionist Hindu Nationalism and Nuclear Politics

Open to the Public

Thursday, September 12, 2019  | 2:30 pm – 5:30 pm

Address: Hotel Margala (Sangam Hall)

Series: Seminar

In recognition to an exceeding escalation in political mainstreaming of Hindutva beyond a religious ideology and its effect on the nuclear politics, the Centre for Strategic and Contemporary Research (CSCR) intends to conduct a seminar, with a keen focus on Hindu nationalism and its instrumentalisation in the modern-day nuclear India.


The politics of Hindu nationalism (Hindutva) has brought about a time of reckoning for the international community. With the outright majority of BJP in the national parliament in 2019 elections, the second term of Narendra Modi is a thumping manifestation of the saffronisation of India’s public sphere. In a constitutionally secular India, deeply charged religious cries based on Hindu identity have become more appealing for the Indian electorate. This ideological fervour is not only visible in the social arena but has also become a political weapon of choice of the radical parliamentarians and state ministers. It is Hindutva that is dominating India’s national security debates, as the state officials allied with the BJP – whose political creed is based on Hindu identity – dubbed themselves as chowkidar after India unlawfully clashed with Pakistan earlier this year. The use of hard line Hindu approaches in the mainstream political sphere and primarily their role in shaping the course of policy making and eventually their application has garnered significant attention in recent times.

The insecurity philosophy underpinning realism juxtaposed with the religio-national Hindutva ideology is being used by Hindu nationalists to be vocal about themes that inflame Hindu anxieties. By creating a state of perpetual fear from perceived enemies like Pakistan and China, India’s menacing overtures are slipping into the security discourse. This was most evident in the post Pulwama events.

By design, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi ramped up the nuclear war threat following the failed Balakot strike by Indian fighter jets. While some commentators saw it as a ploy to attract votes, such crass remarks like Qatal Ki Raat by the PM who is also the head of the Political Council of the National Command Authority, the sole body that can authorise the nuclear attack is reflective of the dominant think set of the Indian nuclear establishment. This disposition goes against norms of responsible nuclear behaviour creating threats for the strategic stability in South Asia and also display that the elements of India’s nuclear strategy are incoherent and disarrayed.

In August 2019, India revoked Article 370, in effect nullifying special social status accorded to the Occupied Jammu and Kashmir – the only Muslim majority state – thereby blatantly disregarding the promises made to them by the Indian constitution. The political subjugation of Kashmiris though unilateral action has added to the volatile situation in South Asia as Pakistan has historically favoured the exercise of free choice by the people of Jammu and Kashmir under UN monitored plebiscite. During this time, the BJP government also publicly tinkered with the possibility of invalidating its No First Use (NFU) pledge, a negative nuclear signalling aimed at Pakistan.

These events related to Kashmir portend that India’s decisions under Narendra Modi’s government are to a large extent guided by domestic Hindu populist politics instead of rigorous strategic thinking. It has also dented the misplaced optimism of the international community in India’s NFU pledge, notwithstanding that Pakistan always considered it a pretence.

Moreover, the Indian elections have proved beyond reasonable doubt that the political control of nuclear weapons has fallen into the custody of Hindu extremists that have a myopic understanding of nuclear weapons and the misguided rhetoric that powers the impulse to use it for war fighting. The shifting nature, paradigm, and approach of the resurgent Hindutva in India is translating into assertive, aggressive, and arrogant nuclear policy options towards Pakistan. Thus, Pakistan’s national, diplomatic, and military calculus need to factor in the determinants giving impetus to India’s irresponsible behaviour.

In recognition to an exceeding escalation in political mainstreaming of Hindutva beyond a religious ideology and its effect on the nuclear politics, the Centre for Strategic and Contemporary Research (CSCR) intends to conduct a seminar, with a keen focus on Hindu nationalism and its instrumentalisation in the modern-day nuclear India.

The Centre for Strategic and Contemporary Research (CSCR) held a national seminar on 12th September 2019, on ‘Expansionist Hindu Nationalism and Nuclear Politics’ at the Margala Hotel, Islamabad. The discussion theme had been selected in view of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) influenced spread of Hindutva Ideology led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government under its Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This has become a point of serious concern for both the region and the international community since it started dominating the debates of India’s national security issues. The events that followed Modi’s reelection post Pulwama attack, the violation of Pakistan’s airspace in the failed Balakot strike and the abrogation of Article 370 in Indian held Kashmir indicate an aggressive shift in the approach and policy options of India towards Pakistan. Particularly after a statement of the Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh suggesting that India’s No First Use nuclear policy will depend on circumstances in the future, the South Asian region has become all the more volatile. In light of this, academicians and practitioners were invited to discuss and deliberate the case in point. The select audience consisted of policy makers, diplomatic representatives, academicians and students, and the media.

The half day seminar began with President CSCR Mr. Anas Abdullah welcoming the distinguished speakers and honourable guests on behalf of the Centre. He emphasized on the expansionist agenda of Hindutva and how that has become a serious concern for the region. He pointed out that not only the abrogation of Article 370, but the questioning of the legality of the citizenship of people of Assam is also a glaring example executed under the umbrella of Hindutva ideology of BJP and RSS. Adding, that the indication in the change in nuclear stance of India supplemented by a declaration of Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has also come forth that can make South Asia a nuclear flashpoint.

The opening keynote remarks were given by the former Defence Secretary Lt. General (Retd.) Asif Yasin Malik. He opined that India has not witnessed any physical expansion despite having hegemonic designs. Furthering his argument that Hindutva took its genesis from Hindu nationalism, which is based on the concept of Indian-hood brought out by RSS, he compared the radical vision of BJP and Hindutva with the actual reality on the ground; 21.9% of the people in India are living below poverty line, yet India presents itself as a global power. He added that India became a nuclear power state to increase its clout as a great power in the world. During the Balakot crisis, Pakistan’s conventional military deterrence was robust. He concluded that atrocities in Kashmir are destabilising the region towards a nuclear holocaust; the West does talk about it but overlooks the miseries of the people in the occupied territory. The leading narrative from Pakistan’s perspective should be that the people of Kashmir are fighting for their right of self-determination and their rights as humans are continuously violated under the nose of international law.

The panel discussion was commenced by the session chair, former Director Arms Control and Disarmament Affairs (ACDA), Strategic Plans Division (SPD) Brigadier (Retd.) Dr. Naeem Salik. While introducing the theme of the seminar, he said that Indians have increased hunger for power and prestige, both at the regional and global level. For Indians, nuclear weapons are a currency of power, the presence of which is not because of an existential threat. Hindutva is an experiment of social engineering of fascism and extremism. While talking on nuclear politics, he lamented that Pakistan has not learnt to behave as a self-assured atomic power. Those who are not experts on the topic talk about nuclear threats. He argued that the less we as Pakistani talk about our nuclear capabilities, the better it would be or otherwise the communication should come only from the relevant quarters. Pakistan has a strong conventional military capability. A stark example can be taken from the Pulwama episode. Pakistan as a state needs to learn and act as a self-assured nation and project both our conventional, and nuclear might.

The first speaker, Assistant Professor, Defence and Strategic Studies Department, Quaid-i-Azam University Dr. Salma Malik spoke on ‘Hindu Nationalism – the New Political Language of India’. She commented on the linkage between Hindu nationalism and arbitrary violence in India, relating it to the genocide in the occupied territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Discussing the aloofness of the United Nations (UN), she shed light on the complicity and the silence of the UN at the time of Rwandan genocide, and exclaimed that there is not more that could be expected from the international community for the atrocities committed in Indian Occupied Kashmir, where there will be a huge humanitarian crisis. She also raised a question stating whether the rise of right-wing political groups in India represents a real face of democracy in the so-called secular India. Even in its territory of Assam, there are strong indications that India is vetting the inhabitants’ nationality premeditated by their religious affiliation. She stated that from the recent action of Modi on Kashmir, the vision and wisdom of Mr. Jinnah for creating a separate state becomes more evident. Hindu nationalism emerged primarily because of the British social construct. Even the rise of RSS and BJP came under severe debate as to how such a radical ideology has engulfed India. The Gandhian ideals of pacifism and inclusivity were tarnished when statements coming from across the border were that India is for Hindus and Hinduism, anyone who is less than that does not fall under the realm of coexistence and should be weeded out. She furthered her argument by saying that the actions of BJP’s India mirror the actions of Hitler’s Nazi era. Both used the same techniques to carry out mass genocide and propaganda. She summed up the topic by concluding that India has failed its Muslim population.

On ‘Syncretism of Hindutva with India’s External Security Calculus,’ author and analyst, Group Captain (Retd.) Mr. Sultan M. Hali correlated the philosophy of Hindutva with the establishment of a ‘Greater Hindu nation-state’ (Akhand Bharat). According to RSS, their mission is to carry the Indian society to the pinnacle of glory and ensure the protection of Hindu dharma. He advanced his argument that under the Hindutva ideology, the Indian society is on the verge of collapse. Hence every sane Indian must protect the glory of their state. Nehru once remarked that the Hindu version of communalism is the equal of fascism. Ultra-nationalism, the seclusion of ethnic minorities is part of the dominant paradigm of RSS. Mr. Hali also gave reference to Barkha Dutt’s writing, a veteran Indian journalist, that India is a land where women are denied their rights, rampant corruption stops economic growth and Brahmins hold social hegemony. He said that Pakistan had neutralised the development of the Cold Start Doctrine as it is ready and has a strong response capability. Kashmir is just the tip of the iceberg. Kashmiri voices cannot be suppressed. India has crossed the emotional barrier and has alienated the Kashmiris. He concluded by saying that an independent and unbiased fact-finding committee of international stature can expose the face of Indian state terrorism.

Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal gave his arguments on ‘Evolving Nuclear Posture of India under the influence of Hindutva’. Since India has become a nuclear power, it has postured itself for war at the strategic level. He argued that there was no shift in the nuclear posture in the last tenure of BJP, but now they have supposedly shifted their No-First-Use (NFU) policy to First-Use (FU) policy. In the previous two decades, India has lost confidence in its conventional forces that is why it is developing and deploying offensive platforms like missiles and submarines. On the contrary, Pakistan is acting maturely. Dr. Jaspal also said that India’s nuclear command and control is under the political control of radical figureheads. The Indian Air Force and Indian Navy have become more strengthened through purchasing weapons and investing in the strike capability. Pakistan lacks in space-based assets as compared to India. Lastly, he stated that asymmetry will grow in the future. India is acting as an abnormal state which should not be ignored by the international community. Pakistan’s full spectrum deterrence posture will have to meet the challenges.

The fourth panelist Dr. Mansoor Ahmed, a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for International Strategic Studies (CISS), presented his views on, ‘Indian Nuclear Postures and Impact on Strategic Stability of South Asia’. He remarked that Indians are openly talking about the two-front war. Apart from China, India is the only country, which has been able to get access to high technology weapons and secure nuclear deals with major powers. Further adding to the argument, he said that India is interacting with Russia to build new weapons. As a consequence of it, India believes that it could bring a change in the nuclear doctrine under the BJP government. India is also working on new generation missiles and fissile material production. India’s Nirbhay has been dubbed as the backbone of the Indian’s nuclear system. He ended his talk by saying that the determinants shaping the future outlook are: arms race instability, crisis instability, first-strike instability, technological asymmetry leading to deterrence failure, and Pakistan’s Full Spectrum Deterrence Posture rising to meet the challenge of India’s Full Spectrum Conflict Posture.

The last speaker of the session Air Commodore (Retd.) Khalid Banuri’s address concerned ‘Hindu Nationalism and Nuclear Politics of South Asia’. He argued that the world has changed, and we have entered the ‘Age of Anger’. Drawing examples from Pankaj Mishra’s work, he posited that the world is turning to individualism. He further argued that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a good sense of when to speak and how to make no comment. On the other side, he has also been called ‘India’s Divider in Chief’ by Aatish Taseer. The manifesto of 2014 elections committed to the abrogation of Article 370 and the revision of India’s nuclear NFU policy. Pakistan exerted efforts to make South Asia a nuclear weapons-free zone until 1998, but India created relevance for nuclear weapons. Mr. Banuri also shed light on Pakistan’s nuclear policy and said that it is based on restraint, responsibility and resolve. He concluded his arguments by saying that it is essential to focus on the rise of fundamental Hinduism, and this is not just a domestic problem of India but a regional one. As a neighbour, a spillover can affect us. The recent developments in occupied Kashmir fall under the realm of international law. In the end, he implored the audience to lend their support to the Kashmiri struggle for self-determination.

The closing keynote remarks were given by former Defence Secretary and Policy Advisor to CSCR Lt. General (Retd.) Naeem Khalid Lodhi. He concluded with two important questions, firstly the need to analyse the mindsets of Indian decision-makers that can lead to a nuclear war. Secondly, how can Pakistan make sure that the deterrence stays intact.

The seminar concluded after the closing keynote remarks and the question and answer session.

The event was covered extensively by print, electronic and digital media. Below are snippets from the print and digital media sources, as well as the names of channels present for covering the event.




1.  Diplomatic News Agency (DNA)

2.  South Asian Broadcasting Agency (SABAH) (English) (Urdu)



1.  Express Tribune

2.  Pakistan Observer

3.  The Financial Daily

4.  The Patriot



 1.  Jang

2.  Daily Ummat

3.  Al Akhbar

4.  Metro Watch

5.  Voice of Pakistan

6.  AbbTakk TV (Web News)



1.  PTV News

2.  AbbTakk

3. Bol News

4.  GNN

5.  Samaa TV

6.  Hum News

7.  24 News


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