The alliance between Israel, Zionism and Hindu Nationalism is based on a shared belief in ethnic cleansing and ethno-nationalism
The alliance between Israel, Zionism and Hindu Nationalism is based on a shared belief in ethnic cleansing and ethno-nationalism
The alliance between Israel, Zionism and Hindu Nationalism is based on a shared belief in ethnic cleansing and ethno-nationalism
Just as ‘anti-Semitism’ is used to attack anti-Zionists so supporters of the Dalits and Kashmiri self-determination are accused of ‘Hinduphobi’
Imagine my surprise when Gideon Falter of the misnamed Campaign Against Anti-Semitism appeared in a Delhi Muslim newspaper, the Milli Gazette. Falter was attending a meeting in 2018 at the House of Commons at the invitation of Tory MP Bob Blackman, ‘the rabidly pro-Hindutva Tory MP from Harrow East’, a patron of the CAA.
What Blackman meant was that ‘Hinduphobia’ should be weaponised against opponents of Hindu racism in the same way as ‘anti-Semitism’ has been weaponised against opponents of Israel’s government.
The meeting was not about Israel but India and a campaign to prevent the inclusion of caste discrimination as a protected characteristic under the 2010 Equality Act. Hindu chauvinists don’t even acknowledging the existence of caste discrimination just as most Zionists don’t recognise anti-Arab racism in Israel. Dalit (untouchable) organisations have long campaigned for a law against caste-based discrimination. Eventually the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 imposed a ‘duty’ on the government to make caste an aspect of race in the Equality Act only to abandon it in response to the claims of Hindu racists that it would be ‘hinduphobic’. Ring a few bells?
Just as the IHRA has been used by racists against anti-racists, so ‘Hinduphobia’ is now being weaponised against anyone who opposes the military occupation of Kashmir and the pogroms against Muslims, Dalits and other minorities in India. The ‘logic’ behind the false accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’ and ‘hinduphobia’ is that if you oppose their racist ethno nationalism it is because you oppose them as Jews or Hindus not because you oppose racism. The supporters of Apartheid in South Africa and British fascist groups used to make similar claims.
As Amrit Wilson observed with the election of Jeremy Corbyn the Hindu far-Right began to strengthen their links to Israel’s supporters in Britain. The passing of a resolution at the 2019 Conference calling for self-determination for Kashmir was the final straw.
Narendra Modi, has been Prime Minister of India since 2014. His administration was complicit in the 2002 Gujarat riots when around 2,000 Muslims died in pogroms and riots. Up till 2014 he was banned from entering the United States because of his role in the pogroms in Gujarat, where he was Chief Minister from 2001 to 2014.
The RSS was founded in 1925 by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar. Some of the most prominent figures in the RSS deeply admired Fascism and Nazism.
Senior RSS members had direct links to both Mussolini and Hitler. The RSS admired the way Mussolini and Hitler built a powerful economy and military under the banner of patriotism and nationalism.
VD Savakar an early RSS leader approved of Hitler’s persecution of Jews. In 1940 he said at a meeting, “Nazism proved undeniably the savior of Germany.”
The BJP was officially formed in 1980 though its history can be traced much further back to the pre-1947 era when Hindu nationalists not only demanded an independent India, but one completely dominated by Hindus.
The current BJP is the successor of the Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, Mussolini, Hitler, Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS) party, which itself was the political arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a group that espoused openly militant Hindu activism and the suppression of minorities in India.
Following the BJP victory in the 2019 general election he revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. He also introduced the Citizenship Amendment Act, which resulted in widespread protests across the country.
In Delhi this resulted in pogroms beginning on 23 February with Hindu mobs attacking Muslims. Of the 53 people killed, two-thirds were Muslims who were shot, slashed with repeated blows, or set on fire. By mid-March many Muslims had remained missing.
Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, a byword for secularism and liberalism in times past was attacked. Samanth Subramanian described how the attack by 50-60 Hindu fascists was led by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidya Parishad (ABVP), the youth wing of the RSS.
The onslaught on JNU marked the middle of a season of nationwide protest, provoked by a new law. The Citizenship Amendment Act, passed by parliament on 11 December 2019, provides a fast track to citizenship for refugees fleeing into India from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Refugees of every south Asian faith are eligible – every faith, that is, except Islam. It is a policy that fits neatly with the RSS and the BJP’s demonisation of Muslims, India’s largest religious minority. To votaries of Hindutva, the country is best served if it is expunged of Islam.
India’s Hindu nationalists and the Israeli right have a remarkable mutual affinity. Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed Narendra Modi to Israel in 2017 with these words: “Prime minister Modi, we have been waiting for you for a long time, almost 70 years … We view you as a kindred spirit.”
“In 2004, when now-Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat, school textbooks published by the Gujarat State Board portrayed Hitler as a hero, and glorified fascism. The tenth-grade social studies textbook had chapters entitled “Hitler, the Supremo,” and “Internal Achievements of Nazism.”
A section on the “Ideology of Nazism” read:
“Hitler lent dignity and prestige to the German government. He adopted the policy of opposition towards the Jewish people and advocated the supremacy of the German race.”
The social studies textbook published by the state of Tamil Nadu in 2011 included chapters praising Hitler’s “inspiring leadership” and “achievements.” A poll conducted by the Times of India in 2002 found that 17 percent favoured Adolf Hitler as “the kind of leader India ought to have.”
Tamil Nadu, Times of India, Bal Thackeray, the leader of the Hindu chauvinist group Shiv Sena, who on his death in 2012 was accorded a state funeral in Bombay, created a brand of Hindu fascism which sought inspiration in Nazi genocide. “There is nothing wrong,” he said in an interview in 1993 with Time magazine:
“if Muslims are treated as Jews were in Nazi Germany.If you take Mein Kampf and if you remove the word ‘Jew’ and put in the word ‘Muslim’, that is what I believe in.”
Jews have lived in India for over a millennium without problems. After Kristallnacht the Indian National Congress issued a declaration against Hitler’s Germany. Both Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru condemned the Nazi treatment of Jews.
Speaking in 1939 in Calcutta, V. D. Savarkar, an early mentor of the RSS and ideological godfather of Hindutva identified Indian Muslims as a potential traitorous people “like the Jews in Germany.” Narendra Modi has had a lifelong association with the RSS.
Savarkar spelt out why Hindus should rule India and others should either be expelled or merged into the Hindu majority. ‘The Aryans who settled in India at the dawn of history already formed a nation, now embodied in the Hindus, he wrote.
“Hindus are bound together not only by the love they bear to a common fatherland and by the common blood that courses through their veins and keeps our hearts throbbing and our affection warm but also by the of the common homage we pay to our great civilization, our Hindu culture.”
There was no greater admirer of Hitler and Mussolini than Savarkar. In a speech delivered in 1940 Savarkar said:
There is no reason to suppose that Hitler must be a human monster because he passes off as a Nazi or Churchill is a demigod because he calls himself a Democrat. Nazism proved undeniably the savior of Germany under the set of circumstances Germany was placed in.
Another senior RSS member, Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, also praised Nazism and believed the ideology should be applied to India. German race pride has now become the topic of the day,” he wrote.
“To keep up the purity of the race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic Races — the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan [India] to learn and profit by.
M.S. Golwalkar, who was the leader of the RSS for over 30 years enthusiastically advocated for an India dominated by Hindus.
“There are only two courses open to the foreign elements, either to merge themselves in the national race and adopt its culture, or to live at its mercy so long as the national race may allow them to do so and to quit the country at the sweet will of the national race,”
… The foreign races in Hindustan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture, i.e., of the Hindu nation and must lose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment not even citizen’s rights.”
If one were to replace “Hindu” with “German,” Golwalkar’s words would match Hitler’s rhetoric almost exactly.
Hitler’s autobiography, Mein Kampf, has gone through countless editions in India and has been a bestseller in the country for decades. It is especially popular among businessmen who see it as a self-help guide for how determination and strength can produce success.
Much of Nazi ideology and imagery came from the symbols and history of ancient India – indeed, the swastika was based on a Hindu symbol of strength and good fortune. The legendary myth of the invasion of prehistoric India by the “Aryan” tribes would, centuries later, provide Hitler with his notion of a “super master race” that was destined to dominate the world.
Sumantra Bose explained that there’s a “profound admiration of generations of Hindu nationalists for Zionism.” Israel provides them with a model nation state. For Zionism it’s not a problem dealing with Hitler lovers as long as they love Israel too.
Amrit Wilson explained that since Modi came to power in 2004, he
Has unleashed an on-going Tsunami of hate with Muslims, Christians and Dalits being lynched and raped on the flimsiest of pretexts and sometimes for no reason other than their identity, with human rights activists, journalists, lawyers and dissenters, being attacked and in some cases, as with feminist journalist Gauri Lankesh, assassinated. Through all this the Hindutva forces have continued to glorify Modi in the communities of Indian origin in Britain.
These are the forces that Keir Starmer sought to appease when he declared that Kashmiri independence was a matter for the India Government and he ripped up Labour Party policy no Kashmir. From Zionism to Hindutva, there appears no form of bigotry that Sturmer is not prepared to make concessions to.
In late November 2019, there was widespread outrage over a video of the Indian Consul-General in New York, Sandeep Chakravorty, in which he suggested to a gathering of Kashmiri Hindus that India should follow the Israeli model, and build settlements in the Kashmir Valley to secure the return of Hindus. Kashmiri activists and journalists were shocked by his apparent support for Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. But this is only one of many recent examples of a growing political love affair between India and Israel.
Ties between the two countries have not always been this friendly. In October 1937, a decade before Indian independence from British rule, the Indian National Congress passed a resolution that declared its support for the Palestinian national movement. It assured “the Arabs of the solidarity of the Indian People with them in their struggle for national freedom.” A year later, Mahatma Gandhi wrote that the “cry for the national home for the Jews” in Palestine had little appeal for him. He added: “Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French.”
Maintaining this position after independence, India was one of only 13 countries—and one of only three non-Muslim countries—to vote against the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine. India officially recognized the State of Israel in 1950, but relations between the two countries remained largely informal until the end of the Cold War. As one of the architects of the Non-Aligned Movement, India’s official allegiance remained with its Arab allies.
As the doors of its embassy opened in Tel Aviv in 1992, India cautiously built its relations with Israel while maintaining its official commitment to the Palestinian cause.
When United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine Cold War Non-Aligned Movement, Israel, the United Kingdom, and France invaded Egypt and sparked the Suez Crisis of 1956, India expressed its support for its nonaligned ally, Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, and its stance against Western imperialism in the region. In 1974, India recognized the Palestine Liberation Organization as the sole, legitimate representative of the Palestinians; it was the first non-Arab country do so. Of course, Israel enjoyed the strong support of the West while India had well-known political leanings towards the Soviet Union, so the two countries almost inevitably found themselves in opposing camps during the Cold War.
But with the fall of the Soviet Union, India embarked on a process of economic liberalization that included a drastic reduction in import tariffs and the removal of restrictions on foreign direct investment. India also saw this as an opportunity to reposition itself in a new world order, and in 1992 established formal diplomatic relations with Israel. As the doors of its embassy opened in Tel Aviv, India cautiously built its relations with Israel while maintaining its official commitment to the Palestinian cause.
Having already recognized the State of Palestine in 1988, India inaugurated its representative office in Gaza in 1996, which later moved to Ramallah. India also consistently voted in favor of the Palestinian position at the United Nations. This included the vote on the General Assembly resolution against Israel’s separation wall in 2003, for Palestine’s full membership of UNESCO in 2011, and for Palestine’s non-member observer status in the U.N. General Assembly in 2012.
At the same time, Indian-Israeli relations began to encompass a wide array of economic, technological, and strategic partnerships. In 2006, the Indian and Israeli agricultural ministries signed a Memorandum of Understanding, leading to the Indo-Israeli Agricultural Project which focused on increasing India’s agricultural productivity and water use efficiency. Bilateral trade has also increased from $200 million in 1992 to $5.84 billion in 2018. And, compared with the same period in the previous year, Israeli goods and services exports to India were up 4.6 percent in the first nine months of 2019.
However, the most significant facet of Indian-Israeli relations is a robust security-defense cooperation. The foundations of this cooperation were laid long before 1992. During the Sino-Indian War of 1962, the Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion expressed his “fullest sympathy and understanding” and, on the request of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, supplied weapons to India. India sourced Israeli weapons during the India-Pakistan wars of 1965 and 1971. Since the early days of its establishment in 1968, the Research and Analysis Wing—India’s external intelligence agency—has also maintained close relations with Israel’s Mossad.
Israel has replaced Russia as India’s preferred all-season weapons supplier. For instance, when India conducted nuclear weapons tests in 1998, it faced international condemnation. But while the Clinton administration imposed economic sanctions and banned the export of U.S. weapons and military technology, Israel refrained from criticizing India. Instead, over the years Israel worked on building its brand as a reliable, but apolitical, partner. During the Kargil War in 1999, it supplied the Indian Air Force with UAVs and surveillance systems. Israel also upgraded India’s aging, Soviet-era MiG-21 fighter jets and supplied Laser Guided Bombs and 160-mm mortar shells.
It wasn’t a coincidence that the Indian Consul General in New York was speaking to a gathering of Kashmiri Hindus. The return of exiled Hindus to Kashmir has long been central to the Hindu nationalist political agenda. And for the Consul General, Israel serves as a model for the way exiled people might reclaim their homeland. So, referring to the controversial revocation of Article 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution, Chakravorty described the move as an attempt to protect Hindu culture in Kashmir—not unlike the way Jewish people maintained their cultural identity in their years of exile.
He went on to declare: “The Kashmiri culture, is the Indian culture, it is the Hindu culture.” And it has been under the leadership of Hindu nationalist governments that Indian-Israeli relations have blossomed, as a majority of the most important diplomatic exchanges have taken place when the BJP has been in power in New Delhi.
The electoral successes of the BJP have meant that what was once a fringe Hindu nationalist love affair with Israel has now become a matter of public policy.
Israel has always been popular among the Hindu right. In 1967, the Hindu nationalist party Bharatiya Jana Sangh reacted to the Six Day War by drawing parallels between India and Israel. One of the founding fathers of the paramilitary Hindu nationalist organization, RSS Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, may have once expressed his sympathies for Nazi Germany. But the present-day organization has repeatedly declared its support for efforts to strengthen India’s ties with Israel.
In 2016, the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat voiced his admiration for the Jewish state when he said,
“Israel was attacked by surrounding Islamic countries on five occasions, but the Israeli people repulsed their aggressions and extended their boundaries due to strong resolve to save motherland.”
It is no surprise then that StandWithUs, a pro-Israel advocacy organization that publishes pamphlets in Hindi and the Israeli Consul General for South India Dana Kursh, reacted to India passing the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) by saying:
“India as a sovereign nation has the right in enacting the CAA … India’s sovereignty is to be respected and she knows how to protect her people.”
India, for its part, displayed the extent of its alliance with Israel when in June 2019 it voted against granting Palestinians consultative status in the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council. Responding to the vote—a historic shift in India’s usual, pro-Palestine voting record at the U.N.— Netanyahu tweeted, “Thank you @NarendraModi, thank you India, for your support and for standing with Israel at the UN.”
Trade, cultural exchange, and strategic partnerships—including the arms trade—are the building blocks of international relations. But as India now openly expresses (and celebrates) its support for Israel in international forums and Israel, in return, expresses its support for India’s controversial laws and constitutional amendments, it is evident that the India-Israel relationship is no longer purely a matter of realpolitik; it is also being strengthened by a shared ideology.
The India-Israel relationship is no longer purely a matter of realpolitik; it is also being strengthened by a shared ideology.
The consequences of this are significant. India, and its Hindu nationalist leadership, has found an ally that is willing to publicly support its widely criticized and often draconian political moves. At the same time Israel, has found an ally willing to cultivate a political, economic, and strategic partnership irrespective of its conduct towards Palestinians.
It may be too early to assess the long-term impact of such an alliance. Nonetheless, authoritarian leaders in Brazil, Russia, Hungary, Azerbaijan, and the Philippines have also upgraded their diplomatic relations with Netanyahu’s Israel. Today’s warm Indian-Israeli ties may soon become a model for strongmen across the world—an alliance that combines diplomatic cover in Washington with military support for populist leaders while easing the consequences of their illiberal ways.
As part of a counter-campaign, 100 British Indian groups said it had hired a digital billboard vehicle to traverse London streets to spread the ‘inclusive and universal’ message of the festival.
Published: 28th October 2019
LONDON: An umbrella group representing over 100 British Indian organisations on Sunday condemned the “Free Kashmir” demonstration by pro-Pakistani groups, planned to coincide with Diwali, as an act of Hinduphobia and racism.
As part of a counter-campaign, the group said it had hired a digital billboard vehicle to traverse central London streets to spread the “inclusive and universal” message of the festival.
“The fact that this protest is occurring on the same day as Diwali is an act of Hinduphobia and racism,” notes a collective statement issued by the groups.
“It is equivalent to an antisemitic group demonstrating on the holy day of Hannukkah or an anti-Muslim group demonstrating on Eid. This is why many British Indian individuals and community groups are upset,”
it notes, welcoming London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s call for the protesters to cancel their plans.
“This request was refused. The Pakistani demonstration is trying to divide people in the UK, especially on religious grounds. Instead of the nuanced debate needed on Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, they are inciting religious and ethnic hatred on the streets of London by hijacking the festival of Diwali,”
the statement adds.
The message hit social media as a number of pro-Pakistani and separatist groups plan to kick-start a march across Parliament Street as part of the so-called “Free Kashmir” protest held annually on October 27, as the “Black Day” when Indian troops allegedly entered the then princely kingdom of Kashmir in 1947.
Following widespread concerns raised across the board, including in the House of Commons, Scotland Yard had imposed strict restrictions on the route of the march to deny permission for it to culminate before the Indian High Commission in London.
The Metropolitan Police imposed the pre-event conditions under Sections 12 and 14 of the UK Public Order Act, which refer to preventing serious disruption to the community, and warned that failure to adhere to the conditions could lead to arrest and prosecution.
“We understand that this is a significant anniversary date for those protesting, and also recognise this falls on the important Hindu festival of Diwali.
My intention on the day will be to balance the rights of those protesting with those who may be affected by it.
We will take all necessary steps to prevent crime and disorder,”
said Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist, the Gold Commander in charge of the policing operation.
Twist reiterated this message in a reply to Pakistani-origin peer, Lord Nazir Ahmed, who is one of the key organisers of the protest and had called for the restrictions to be lifted in a letter to the Met Police.
In his reply, Commander Twist said:
“To be clear I have not in any way sought to ban the pro-Kashmiri protest. In order to minimise serious disruption to the community, I have asked for the pre-event conditions.
“This has only been done to ensure we correctly balance the rights of those who want to protest, with those in wider London who may be disproportionately affected by the serious disruption it would cause.”
The Indian High Commission in London had issued a diplomatic “note verbale” seeking appropriate safety measures following clashes involving similar protesters, which had caused damage to India House on August 15 during Indian Independence Day celebrations.
The restricted route prevents the protesters from assembly anywhere near the Indian mission in Aldwych and must culminate at Trafalgar Square instead.
The organisers of the protest march, including groups such Muslim Action Forum, World Muslim Federation, Pakistan Patriotic Front, Overseas Pakistan Welfare Council, had expressed their anger at the restrictions and even threatened court action.
According to the Met Police details on the permissions sought for the proposed march, an estimated 5,000-10,000 protesters are expected to turn out for the march from across the UK.
The London Mayor has pledged a “robust” policing plan to deal with any violence or breaches of the strict conditions imposed on the protesters.
An unofficial visit by nationalist European leaders to Kashmir highlights the solidarity of far-right movements across the globe.Eviane Leidig
In October 2019, 23 members of the European Parliament (MEPs) visited Kashmir, just two months after the Indian government removed the region’s special autonomous status. The trip sparked controversy when it was revealed that most of the MEPs belonged to far-right political parties, including France’s National Rally (formerly National Front) and Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). It wasn’t just the affiliations of these visitors that drew attention: The MEPs had been granted access to Kashmir even as foreign journalists and domestic politicians were barred access to the region, and the Indian-administered government had imposed an internet shutdown since August.
This visit was the latest example of the growing ties between the far-right in India and Europe, a connection that is rooted primarily in a shared hostility toward immigrants and Muslims, and couched in similar overarching nationalistic visions. Today, with the populist radical right ascendant in India and in several European democracies, the far-right agenda has been increasingly normalized and made a part of mainstream political discourse.
The link between far-right ideologies in these regions long predates the relatively recent rise of right-wing populist leaders. In the 1930s, Hindu nationalists collaborated with key figures in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany in order to help advance their extreme right-wing projects. In the 1930s, Hindu nationalists collaborated with key figures in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany in order to help advance their extreme right-wing projects. One of the pioneers of Hindu nationalism, V.D. Savarkar, once wrote that India should model its approach to its “Muslim problem” on that used by the Nazis to deal with their “Jewish problem.”
Similarly, European ideologues like Savitri Devi (born in France as Maximiani Portas) described Hitler as an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu. Nearly four decades after she died, her ideology remains popular among American white nationalists. The manifesto of Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist who killed 77 people in 2011, also expressed an affinity for the Hindu nationalist approach to Islam that highlights many contemporary European attitudes toward Muslim immigrant populations.
“The only positive thing about the Hindu right wing is that they dominate the streets. They do not tolerate the current injustice and often riot and attack Muslims when things get out of control, usually after the Muslims disrespect and degrade Hinduism too much,”
Breivik wrote before bombing a government building in Oslo and killing dozens of children at a summer camp.
“India will continue to wither and die unless the Indian nationalists consolidate properly and strike to win. It is essential that the European and Indian resistance movements learn from each other and cooperate as much as possible. Our goals are more or less identical.”
More recently, Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist and editor in chief of the far-right site Breitbart News Network, had considered creating a Breitbart India in 2015 after Narendra Modi became prime minister of India. Bannon has long admired Modi, once calling him “a Trump before Trump.” Meanwhile, European supporters of Modi and his nationalist message include the leader of the Dutch far-right Party for Freedom (PVV) Geert Wilders.
The MEPs’ visit to Kashmir sheds light on the solidarity of the global far-right. Although they were sent invitations on behalf of Madi Sharma, a Brussels-based entrepreneur and president of the NGO Women’s Economic and Social Think Tank (WESTT), the visit itself was funded and organized by an NGO registered in New Delhi called the International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies (IINS)—a group that shares the same IP address as the obscure news websiteNew Delhi Times.
Steve Bannon has long admired Narendra Modi, once calling him “a Trump before Trump.”
This website, in turn, is connected to a global network of think tanks, companies, NGOs, and, significantly, over 265 local media outlets in 65 countries. EU DisinfoLab, which conducts research on disinformation campaigns targeting European Union member states, recently concluded that the media outlets tied to the New Delhi Times are attempting to influence international institutions and elected representatives.
While the ideological leanings of the New Delhi Times are unclear, its network of media outlets syndicate content criticizing Pakistan’s role in Kashmir, and they regularly take Islamophobic editorial stances. Although those positions are not unusual in the Indian media landscape, it is rare for such outlets to lobby on a global scale. Two notable websites in this network—EP Today and Times of Geneva—maintain strong connections to NGOs and think tanks in Brussels and Geneva, in effect serving as lobbying interests to the EU and the United Nations.
Sharma promised invitees “a prestigious VIP meeting” with Modi in addition to their trip to Kashmir. The MEPs stated that the purpose of the visit was to “gather information” on the situation in Kashmir. Although the MEPs were technically an unofficial delegation, they received clearance not just to tour Kashmir, but also to meet with several senior members of the Indian government and military. Government ministries have publicly stated that they were not involved in arranging the visit, although it is unlikely that such clearance could have been obtained without approval from high-level authorities.
Before visiting Kashmir, the MEPs went to New Delhi to meet Modi, who said that the delegation would gain “a better understanding of the cultural and religious diversity of the region.” While in Kashmir, the European delegation went on a guided tour through the capital of Srinagar before having lunch at the Indian Army Headquarters, where they saw maps of supposed terrorist training camps in Pakistan, where attacks in Kashmir are allegedly plotted.
Several MEPs, including far-right Czech MEP Tomas Zdechovsky and National Rally MEP Thierry Mariani, later used social media to share their experience meeting the prime minister; Mariani, for example, tweeted in support of the Indian government’s policy in Kashmir. Mariani also told reporters that “we stand with India in its fight against terrorists,” while AfD MEP Lars Patrick Berg accused the media of branding them “Muslim-hating Nazis.” Both Mariani and Berg have called for stronger border security in the EU, linking migration to potential Islamist terrorist attacks.
The Kashmir issue is a rallying cry for much of Europe’s far-right. Europe’s nationalists share a deep concern over Islamist extremism, as well as an overarching vision of national strength. In many ways, they see Modi’s hardline stance in Kashmir as indicative of their own aims.
The latest crisis in Kashmir began when Modi’s government revoked Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, thereby removing Jammu and Kashmir’s special autonomous status. Wilders openly tweeted his support of the revocation of Kashmir’s autonomy the day it was announced. The British columnist Katie Hopkins also expressed solidarity and has more recently claimed that Hindus are the victims of ethnic cleansing in Kashmir.
The Kashmir issue is a rallying cry for much of Europe’s far-right. Europe’s nationalists share a deep concern over Islamist extremism, as well as an overarching vision of national strength.
The immediate pretext for Modi’s move was brewing unrest in the region. An ongoing separatist insurgency has gripped Kashmir since 1989, and Pakistan has played a substantial role supporting violent separatist groups in the region. Islamist terrorist attacks remain an everyday reality on the ground, and they have sometimes spilled over into India itself. This includes the 2008 Mumbai attacks, in which Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, a Pakistan-based Islamist group seeking Kashmiri unification with Pakistan, launched a massive attack in Mumbai killing 164 people.
The situation continued to escalate in February 2019, when Pakistan’s Air Force launched a series of airstrikes in Indian-controlled Kashmir, leading to Indian retaliation. Periodic airstrikes have been conducted intermittently since—arguably boosting Modi’s popularity with his base and helping him win reelection last year.
Although the pretext for the constitutional change was regional unrest, there are broader goals. Hindu nationalists have long sought to expand India’s territorial reach into what was once British-controlled India—including not only Kashmir but also Pakistan, Bangladesh, and other parts of South Asia.
In much the same way that Hindu nationalists see Islamist extremism as an existential threat to the nation, European far-right figures often characterize extremist-inspired attacks as foreign threats, even when the perpetrators are fellow citizens. Following the 2017 Westminster attack in London, for example, National Rally leader Marine Le Pen called on France to take “control” of its borders, despite the fact that the attacker was a British-born Muslim convert.
The far-right in India and Europe are learning from each other, and their abilities to govern according to a shared ideological agenda rooted in Islamophobia are evolving in parallel.
A few months later, the Manchester Arena bombing led the far-right Hungarian Fidesz parliamentary leader Lajos Kósa to state that
“terrorism doesn’t start with a ‘suicide bomber.’ It starts when terrorists illegally come to Europe and many people actually assist them.”
The attacker in this case, too, had been born in the United Kingdom to Libyan refugees, but far-right figures still used the attacks to condemn Islamist extremism and promote their Islamophobic, anti-immigrant agendas. Members of the South Asian diaspora living in Western countries have also played their part in helping to promote a Hindu nationalist agenda through lobbying and fundraising for organizations based in India.
Although the visit of the MEPs was widely criticized in the international community for flouting diplomatic norms, it signals a new development in Indo-European relations: Far-right narratives have become part of the global mainstream. The far-right in these two regions are learning from each other, and their abilities to govern according to a shared ideological agenda rooted in Islamophobia are evolving in parallel.
Although transnational bonds between nationalists may seem counterintuitive, their visions are not necessarily contradictory, and they may continue to complement each other so long as the Muslim “other” remains their common enemy. If far-right nationalists have it their way, it is likely that Indo-European relations will be reshaped along Islamophobic lines.
Eviane Leidig is a researcher at the Center for Research on Extremism at the University of Oslo. Twitter: @evianeleidig