Expert Speak India Matters
Published on Aug 21, 2019
From Balakot to Article 370, 2019 is becoming the year of India’s rajasic transformation

The year 2019 is proving to be a spiritual turning point in India’s destiny. The abrogation of Article 370 by Parliament on 5 August 2019 and turned into law the next day is an important expression of that change. It follows the 26 February 2019 Balakot attack. On the surface, the reasons for this shift are many – high economic growth that has placed India as the world’s seventh-largest economy, a more assertive but not yet aggressive foreign policy footprint that rides this growth, a willingness to engage with problems that have remained unresolved for seven decades, an enthusiasm with which to rethink, reimagine and re-action policy within the confines of a new nationalism.

But this outer strength to withstand pressures both domestic and foreign stands on an inner transformation of the nation and its people. This transformation is the visible shift of its people from the tamasic to the rajasic mode (read more about this theory here). The former is broadly defined by inertia, the latter by dynamism. Both are spiritual forces and carry no judgement – they just are. Although they reside in the bodies, minds and souls of individuals, they come together as a collective consciousness and define the inherent core of a nation. In every facet, from external security and international relations to domestic clean-up of administration and a potential refocus on economic growth, there is a new spring in every governance stride. This source of this spring is the collective aspiration of India’s 1.3 billion people expressing their will in every area – political, administrative, commercial, scientific, education, social.

Under two major expressions of statecraft – Constitutional recently (through the abrogation of Article 370) and military-strategic earlier (through the Balakot attack that changed India’s foreign policy stance in five ways) – India is shedding decades of uncertainty and despondency. It is now going out and embracing a new executive vitality. National interest has been placed on a high, firm and unapologetic pedestal. The idea of India-first has trickled down and become a national conversation. This conversation needed a political outlet, which the Narendra Modi government offered and is now driving. Modi is as much a product of the time as he is the character defining it.

The idea of India-first has trickled down and become a national conversation. This conversation needed a political outlet, which the Narendra Modi government offered and is now driving. Modi is as much a product of the time as he is the character defining it.

The abrogation of Article 370 through the 6 August 2019 Presidential notification has unleashed an existential earthquake in Pakistan. When we see whinings and rantings of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan (see threads: 8 August, 11 August, 14 August, 15 August, 16 August, 18 August), we are amused. But we also pity him as he turns his failing nation into an international embarrassment. Barring China, which has hyphenated itself with Pakistan on any matter against India including terror, there is no other nation lending support this hub of global terror. Its geography-for-alms strategy, mortgaged to China for the moment but open to higher bidders, has failed to garner support even among the 56 other OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) nations.

Pakistan is becoming a footnote of history – it has exhausted its rajasic capital. Economically, it’s on the edge of a financial precipice; diplomatically, barring the conversations around Afghanistan, it stands isolated; on the terror front, it stands on the edge of being blacklisted by FATF (Financial Action Task Force); its terrorists, raised and groomed by the Pakistani army are in a disarray. In the past seven decades, Pakistan has depleted its rajasic energies towards only one idea: takeover of Jammu and Kashmir from India. With the abrogation of Article 370, that dream too has died. All it has left is an apology for a Prime Minister, an army of terrorists with nowhere to go, a media that has been shut down, and a people busy butchering cows on the Indian flag to extract revenge. Pakistan is a humiliation.

But more important than the implosion of Pakistan is the visible change in the way India is conducting itself. On the surface, there are three long-winded trajectories that have reached their end. First, domestically, the temporary nature of Article 370 had hardened into a permanency, a point of no return. Trapped in a Constitutional-political stalemate of domestic and international actors, India changed the strategic chessboard. Second, using its geography, Pakistan had played the US establishment for decades and is now playing the Chinese. The national interest of these three nations converged; as long as Islamic terror from Pakistan did not flow into the US and China, it remained kosher. That will now change.

Third, and most important, these interest equations overflowed into the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), which, despite dismissing China-Pakistan with a yawn of contempt, has emerged as a diminished and dwarfed version of the ideals it was set for in October 1945. It is a failing institution, whose legitimacy is now being questioned by all civilised and self-respecting UNSC non-members, including India. The failure of the United Nations behind and a narrow definition of nationalism ahead, one country after another has taken to understanding what the new world is all about – P-5 is an agglomeration of interests of five countries, period; there are no principles no friends, no values; petty interests overshadow wider global expectations; sleeping with enemies is the new currency of cooperation.

In dealing with terrorist neighbours, their hegemonic masters and the rest of the world that’s unable to look beyond the latest deal, India has called upon its rajasic force to stand alone. That the US and France stand by it is a bonus; that the UK has decided to bow down before China tells us how to deal with it, from trade deals to UK-occupied Ireland, going forward; that Russia with its faltering economy but strong defence industry is trying hard to balance the dragon with the elephant leaves India unimpressed. That India has won this round is no guarantee for winnings in future diplomatic skirmishes. It needs to remain alert, continue to engage with divergent interests. But above all, it needs to harness, nurture and strengthen its inner rajasic transformation.

India has experienced this rajasic force earlier. The Freedom Movement of the 20th century brought out new leaders, each of whom handed the baton of this force to the next – Chandrashekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh, Subhash Chandra Bose. Post-Independence, we felt the expression of this force through Indira Gandhi, when she defeated Pakistan for the third time and led the formation of Bangladesh, and then again in 1974 at Pokhran by going nuclear. Rajasic force enabled Atal Bihari Vajpayee to conduct five more nuclear tests in May 1998 and gave India the strength to face global sanctions. While these came in fits and spurts, neither did they sustain nor trickle down to other arms of statecraft. Inertia remained the dominant governance discourse – rent-seeking its medium, it began to feed off its own people. Under Modi, that seems to be changing. Perhaps the Gandhi-Vajpayee incidents were a preparation for a longer and more sustained rajas under Modi. Or perhaps, the nation was not fully ready. Today, it seems to be. We hope it is.

Article 370 is the second big rajasic step taken by the Modi government in 2019. The first was the 26 February 2019, when India struck the biggest training camp of JeM (Jaish-e-Mohammad) in Balakot, inside Pakistan. Initially, Pakistan had denied any destruction, but Imran Khan’s rantings post-abrogation have proved otherwise – not just India, the world understands this duplicity. The Balakot attack came 12 days after, and in response to, Pakistani terrorists killing 40 jawans of the Central Reserve Police Force on 14 February at Pulwama. As Article 370 has done on the Constitutional front, the Balakot attack did for military strikes: India’s stance has changed to assertive-aggressive from defensive-reactionary. With the rajasic force of India powering him, Modi has gone beyond flaccid “kadi ninda” outbursts or handing over inert demarches.

Article 370 is the second big rajasic step taken by the Modi government in 2019. The first was the 26 February 2019, when India struck the biggest training camp of JeM (Jaish-e-Mohammad) in Balakot, inside Pakistan

Under the weight of rajasic expectations from voters, Modi has raised the costs of terror attacks on India. By abrogating Article 370, he is attempting to integrate Jammu and Kashmir into India. Both are works in progress. But they are not the end. Looking ahead, we have several huge and lingering challenges, no different from these two. If Modi can infuse the economy with the rajasic force through easier and supportive laws for entrepreneurs and wealth creators – as he stated in his 15 August 2019 speech, which can be taken forward in several directions – India would be that much stronger. Although the rajasic force is using the tool of democracy to get leaders to act, it doesn’t mean every citizen is in tune with it. Onboarding them with harmony will be a challenge too.

Once the consciousness of a nation coalesces together into a singular whole, it changes the direction as well as the destiny of its collective evolution. This makeover expresses itself in a multitude of ways, each idea a call to action, each tributary of action a carving of new pathways, each path filled with challenges that must be surmounted. The rajasic trajectory India has boldly opted for in 2019 is part the result of frustration with the status quo and part the expression of its collective aspiration. The sense, the idea, the very being of India is changing. Those who stand in its way, within or outside, will need to adjust and adapt their perspectives, their dealings and reconfigure their stances. Tamas and indolence is becoming India’s history, rajas and vigour its future.

The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.


Gautam Chikermane

Gautam Chikermane

Gautam Chikermane is a Vice President at ORF. His areas of research are economics, politics and foreign policy. A Jefferson Fellow (Fall 2001) at the East-West ...

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Guillermina French

Guillermina French

Guillermina French Fundacin Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (FARN)

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