Continuing his drive to put India’s Hindu heritage to use in matters of foreign policy, Narendra Modi gifted the emperor of Japan with a copy of the Bhagwad Gita on Tuesday.
Recounting, Modi said, “There is nothing more valuable to give, and the world has nothing more valuable to get.”
The last time he did something like this was when he was in Nepal. His visit to Kathmandu’s Pashupatinath temple even got him the name ‘mascot of Hinduism’ from the head priest Mool Bhatta Ganesh Bhatta.
The obvious purpose behind this seems to be that the Prime Minister has begun the task of demolishing the edifice of fake secularism that pervades minds in India. Speaking in Japan after gifting the Gita to the emperor of Japan, Modi actually made mention of the “seculars” at home.
For far too long, a public figure’s being overtly Hindu (in practice or even symbolism) has had to have disclaimers alongside. The kind that goes: “I am Hindu but I respect all religions.” This is particularly amusing because among all the religions of the world, Hinduism is perhaps one of the few that comes pre-installed with respect for all religions. When one says he is Hindu, what he is assumed to be also expressing (without saying it in so many words) is that he respects all religions.
Japan shares with India a culture shaped by Buddhism and by Dharma — something it has refused to let go of despite modernisation. What a lot of Indians appreciate about Japan is the way it has managed to keep together its future and its past. This shared religious character forms no small part of the India Japan bond and Narendra Modi has been smart enough to not only notice it, but also make full use of it as a diplomatic tool.
Modi’s brand of Hindutva involves him asserting his identity as the Prime Minister of a nation that is culturally and spiritually Hindu. That he is doing it in front of the whole world, as part of international engagements, makes the effort that much more powerful.
India’s culture and heritage has been its strongest suit for a long time. The world over, India is seen as the home of spirituality, inclusiveness, and culture. It would be foolish to not make use of it when engaging with other countries. Fortunately for India, that is a mistake Narendra Modi seems to be in no mood to make.