In view of the growing trade and cultural ties between India and the Arab world, it will be disastrous if differences aggravate and no remedial and timely actions are taken, writes Asif Rameez Daudi for South Asia Monitor
The contemptuous and abominable remarks of two BJP leaders on Prophet Muhammad unleashed strong reactions not only in India but also in the Middle East including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Iran, resulting in calls to ban Indian products.
Though the BJP has strongly denounced the remarks and said that insults of any religious personalities is not permissible and immediately suspended its accused spokespersons for not toeing the official line on sensitive matters, it has become an international issue and doesn’t seem to end. The action taken by the BJP has been welcomed by some countries while others are demanding severe action against the offenders.
The role of the mainstream and social media has been rampant over the last few years and often adds fuel to the fire. India’s splendid past is full of glory and wonders. However, there are some stinking rottenness that may vitiate environment with their poisonous and venomous odor. History develops the ability to avoid mistakes and create better paths for societies. Nevertheless, some of the media houses delve into the history and spoil all its might and mettle as if to prove that rottenness is actually giving high quality fragrance.
The current uproar on Indian TV channels on religious lines has mostly been provocative and derogatory. Dishonoring the messenger of Allah by the so-called fringe elements, making controversial statements on TV shows, where the anchor’s role seems to be equally accountable, has also been questioned. The truth is that about 200 million Indian Muslims cannot be ousted from the country. They have been living, and will continue to live in the same country in which they opted to live by choice, and in whose freedom struggle they contributed equally.
The question then arises: why promote hate and provocative speeches? Is it just to bake the election bread on the funeral pyre of its own people? Is it justifiable? The fact is that there are some differences between the BJP and Muslims as a whole with some exceptions; this is an ideological difference which is permissible in a healthy democracy.
If the BJP opens its heart for Muslims in a true sense, they would certainly be the only party to rule the country for a longer period of time , but alas! They have failed to win the hearts of Muslims; the idea of inclusiveness “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas Sabka Vishwas” (For all, Development for all, trust of all) seems to be losing its salience.
Wining hearts demands hard work and continuous strive at all levels. The nation is already facing numerous problems, people are fighting against poverty, environmental degradation, joblessness and various health problems, but some media houses for their vested interest, instead of raising the genuine issues, have deliberately been dividing and engulfing the society in the name of religion which is the greatest obstacle on the way of development.
This is not a new phenomenon in India, whether during Congress regime or the BJP’s. However, the intensity of such communal sledging from both sides aggravated during the BJP’s rule. The insensitivity of the government on such sensitive issues heightens when they pronounce them as fringe elements; instead of taking suo moto cognizance with stern action to prove a deterrent for others, they opened the doors for international condemnation and pressure.
There have been several instances when BJP leaders and followers have tried to demean and degrade Indian Muslims, be it in hate speeches, during mob violence, calls for genocide in Dharam Sansads and in communal clashes in different states like Delhi, Utter Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar and Bengal. It proves that the government has utterly failed to stop such so-called fringe elements and their divisive and provocative activities.
In fact, in many cases, on the contrary, the victims were persecuted. The new instant justice system introduced by the Uttar Pradesh government to bulldoze the houses of suspects raises bigger question mark on the true intention of the government. The government and the police are supposed to be fair, transparent and neutral irrespective of caste, color or religion.
India’s overall economy during Mughals was several times more than many European countries. This attracted many Europeans to India. The prosperity level was very high in comparison to the present time. It is believed that the only reason of this richness and prosperity was peace and tranquility. However, economic destruction began during Modern India by the British. They divided people to rule and to earn profit from them. People were dying in starvation but they were busy in draining the wealth. There was upheaval and turmoil during British rule. Is a similar policy going on in contemporary India as well?
History is evidence that peace, brotherliness and justice bring prosperity and development. On the contrary, hatred ruins and destroys nations. On the one hand, poverty is rising, unemployment is touching the sky, the hunger Index is at its peak, a wide difference is visible between the rich and poor; on the other hand, the so-called fringe elements and some media houses keep people busy in their communal agendas.
The recent reactions from the Middle East and many Muslim countries will further damage the economy if no quick remedial action is taken. As per media reports, the Gulf countries account for almost one fifth of India’s total trade. For instance, in 2020-21, the total value of the goods imported from the GCC countries was worth $110.73 billion. India imports 40 percent of crude oil, 18 percent of petroleum gas and 8 percent of diamond from Gulf countries while it exports 14 percent of refined petroleum, 8 percent of jewelry and 7 percent of rice. In other words, India imports 72 percent worth of $111 billion and exports 28 percent worth $44 billion.
Gulf and India
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia are the third and fourth largest trade partners of India. The UAE alone accounts for 6.6 percent of India’s total exports and 7.3 percent of imports last year, touching about $73 billion of the total trade volume. Saudi Arabia accounts for almost 80 percent of imports worth $34.1 billion and 20 percent of exports worth $8.75 billion. Other GCC countries’ trade volumes are: Iraq 34.3 percent, Qatar 15.0 percent, Kuwait 12.2 percent, Oman 10.0 percent and Bahrain 1.7 percent.
Gulf countries are known to be the second home of almost 10 million Indians, making it the largest Indian diaspora across the globe and contributing immensely to India’s foreign reserves. As a matter of fact, India is the largest recipient of the foreign remittances.
As per last year’s World Bank report, India received $87 billion foreign remittances in 2021. Half of these foreign remittances was sent from just five Gulf countries -- UAE 26.9 percent, Saudi Arabia 11.6 percent, Qatar 6.5 percent, Kuwait 5.5 percent and Oman 3 percent. In view of the growing trade and cultural ties between India and the Arab world, it will be disastrous if differences aggravate and no remedial and timely actions are taken.
Wake up BJP
It is a well-known fact that India and Arab world have had very strong trade and cultural relations for centuries. They believe in coexistence and mutual cooperation. It is the responsibility of the government of the day to be accountable for both the successes and failures.
Hence, it is high time for India to work on immediate corrective measures both internally and externally to fight the true evils of society -- hatred, poverty, unemployment -- and have proper control on the so-called fringe elements and concerned media houses that are trying to divide and damage the true spirit of the idea of India.
(The author is a faculty member of King Abdul Aziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; founder-chairman of Indo-Arab Helping Hands and International Advisor of Millennial India International Chamber of Commerce Industry and Agriculture. Views are personal. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @asiframeez)