Chief of the Army Staff General Bipin Rawat’s argument that Pakistan must “develop as a secular state” to have any dialogue with India can be interpreted to convey two contradictory messages. The first is that India has no intention of engaging with Pakistan since there is no possibility of Pakistan being converted into a secular country in the foreseeable future. The second is that the Modi government’s ‘faith diplomacy’ has obvious limitations, and may prove costly for India’s national interests in the longer run. That diplomacy rooted in religion can be a double-edged sword became evident when the narrative of Pakistan’s “googly” forcing the Modi government’s presence at the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpur corridor gained widespread currency.
Marketing brand India Prime Minister Narendra Modi has enthusiastically used the religious dimension of India’s soft power in order to market brand India. Yoga and Ayurveda cannot be strongly associated with religion; however, Hinduism and Buddhism are being used to promote India’s interests in the neighbourhood as well as to reconstitute the geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific region. Mr. Modi has often made visits to Hindu and Buddhist shrines in the neighbourhood, apparently to counter China’s promotion of Buddhism. India hosted Sri Lankan military personnel and their families in Bodh Gaya last year.
This was projected as an innovative way of wooing Sri Lanka back into India’s geopolitical orbit. Serious attempts are also being made to encourage Nepal to reciprocate India’s attempts to forge Hindu-based civilisational bonds with the country. U.P. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath visited Janakpur in Nepal in December on the occasion of Vivah Panchami. Being an advocate of restoration of Nepal’s monarchy and Hindu status, Mr. Adityanath’s visit put a question mark on the usefulness of such gestures in creating an atmosphere of goodwill between the two countries.