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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2040

Akhand Bharat Possible in a Different Form

By Allabaksh - Syndicate Features

Not many are likely to buy the ‘clarification’ given by the RSS that it supports the idea of an ‘Akhand Bharat’ in the cultural sense, not a forcible reunification of the sub-continent that was divided by the British before they left in August 1947. Ram Madhav, the BJP general secretary appointed to the post by the RSS to keep an eye on the ruling party, had set off an untimely controversy when the Qatar-based Al Jazeera TV network put out a previously recorded interview with him just after Narendra Modi had dropped by uninvited at Lahore to celebrate the birthday of his Pakistani counterpart and the wedding of his granddaughter on Christmas Day last year.

The RSS fervour for ‘Akhand Bharat’ can be traced to the era before the Partition of British India. It has not wavered in its support for its concept of a Greater India that many think does harm India as it is seen as confirmation of India’s ‘hegemonic’ designs over its neighbors. The RSS link to the government obliges it to resort to sophistry when talking about Akhand Bharat, saying that the idea will not be forced by military conquest (as though it is possible at all) on reluctant neighbors.

Whether small or big, weak or powerful, none of the neighbors of India have ever shown any attraction for the concept of Akhand Bharat. All of India’s neighbors are sovereign nations and in no case will they be ready to bargain their independence to become part of a bigger geographical—or political—entity. So, how will then India become Greater geographically, as visualized by the RSS?

But wait; Akhand Bharat by another name may be possible. For this the RSS and the Sangh Parivar will have to come out of its obsession with the past glory of India when many adjoining territories now forming part of independent countries were part of the Indian Empire. India was not the only country that was bigger than what it is now. Over the centuries a lot of empires have vanished and are highly unlike to come back to life. After the demise of the empires of the past the residual countries do not crave for the return of their imperial past.

One possible exception to this fact is the Chinese leadership which lays claim to territories which have not been under its control for centuries but are sought after to resurrect the medieval China map. The Chinese are finding it tough to get back foreign territories which they claim are theirs and have to forego the possibility of being seen as a benign power by most of the neighbors and, indeed, the world at large.

Till about the mid-20th century there was constant drawing and redrawing of maps in Europe. It was the time when warfare and tension loomed large over long periods. In recent years, there have been some instances of big geographical entities breaking up. The Soviet Union is one example. But the point is that it was a phenomenon that saw contraction of the size of a country, not its expansion.

Two examples of how brittle unification of sovereign independent country can prove in modern times were provided in the Middle East and South East Asia in the 1960s. Egypt, Libya and Sudan had merged to form one union only to revert to their independent status. Singapore had merged with Malaya (as Malaysia was then called) only to see a bitter parting of ways a few years later. The union of these countries might have broken up for political or any other reason but ‘culturally’, the countries that had come together were similar.

That is why the RSS claim that Akhand Bharat will be built around ‘cultural’ ties looks dicey. In any case, it is doubtful if the countries in South Asia can be said to be ‘culturally’ one. Sharing a common past and history does not make countries culturally identical.

But despite the many factors that militate against accepting ‘Akhand Bharat’ of the RSS it is possible to achieve what one would presume is the basic idea behind the RSS propagation of Akhand Bharat, which will be movement within ‘Akhand Bharat’ with ease for a variety of reasons, including meeting friends and relatives, boosting tourism, trade and commercial activities, exchange of views among experts and creating a wider job market.

All of this is possible, theoretically at least, under the aegis of Saarc which is perhaps the worst performing association of neighbouring countries in the world. The Saarc meetings seem to be all about tension between India and Pakistan. It has failed to make movement of people within the region easier and so is the case with trade and commerce and surface connectivity. However anachronistic it may sound, it is also a fact that India, the ‘hegemon’, holds attraction for a large number of people in the surrounding countries. Likewise, Indians would be happier if restrictions on movement within the region are relaxed, if not removed, for both business and pleasure. The various governments in the region cannot take any ‘bold’ step to remove the present barriers because of mutual distrust.

Unlike Saarc, the union of countries in South East Asia and Europe has done well, although in recent years European Union has been witnessing internal differences which may be linked to the revival of ‘Cold War’ between the West and Russia. The European Union, however, does not appear to be on the verge of imminent collapse, not when it continues to plan expansion to include the former Soviet Union countries. The South East Asian countries have differences amongst themselves but their association remains strong and beneficial to their economies.

If the RSS has ‘revised’ its stand on Akhand Bharat it could be only to save the BJP some embarrassment, especially when the prime minister is said to be working to end the era of hostilities between India and Pakistan, the two largest countries in South Asia. But if there is a genuine rethinking within the RSS and the Sangh Parivar on Akhand Bharat, India under the BJP leadership can contribute a lot to giving a more meaningful shape to Saarc, which has the potential to become the 21st century version of ‘Akhand Bharat’, though the name too may have to be erased to remove misgivings among the neighbors.

- Asian Tribune -

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