What lessons Indian Muslims should take from UAE's deals with PM Narendra Modi

However, in India, for the country’s Muslims all this may constitute a disappointment: Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat when the infamous Godhra riots happened; Modi heads a party that avowedly propounds the ideology of Hindutva and Modi’s party, the BJP was responsible for the demolition of the Babri Mosque. And , more recently, Yakub Menon was hanged. In this schema, Indian Muslims may be seething with anger at what they might construe as ‘betrayal’ by the Muslim rulers of the UAE. Or, fellow Muslims of the Ummah.

Wajahat Qazi August 19, 2015 17:27:08 IST
What lessons Indian Muslims should take from UAE's deals with PM Narendra Modi

Narendra Modi’s state visit to the UAE has been touted as a huge success and in many ways it is. The rulers of the federating units that comprise the UAE have pledged to invest $75 billion in India, a temple will be constructed in the UAE, there is talk of defense cooperation and defense manufacturing. By many yardsticks then the visit is a success.

However, in India, for the country’s Muslims all this may constitute a disappointment: Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat when the infamous Godhra riots happened; Modi heads a party that avowedly propounds the ideology of Hindutva and Modi’s party, the BJP was responsible for the demolition of the Babri Mosque. And , more recently, Yakub Menon was hanged. In this schema, Indian Muslims may be seething with anger at what they might construe as ‘betrayal’ by the Muslim rulers of the UAE. Or, fellow Muslims of the Ummah.

Instead of seething with anger at the feeling of betrayal, Indian Muslims must take cues and draw lessons from the Modi visit , the welcome that Modi received and promise of cooperation that Modi elicited from his Muslim hosts. The lesson is: Muslims in India must take to modern education and the opportunity structure that this offers on a war footing. The reasons pertain to the intrinsic value of education and the power that it accords. Education, development( economic and human), and the power that inheres in the two makes the world take notice so much so that religious, cultural and other divides melt and what matters is interest’.

What lessons Indian Muslims should take from UAEs deals with PM Narendra Modi

PTI image.

This is the major lesson and insight that can be drawn from Modi’s visit to the UAE and the reciprocity by his Muslim hosts. International Relations theory and even practice can help illustrate this. A theoretical paradigm of International Relations, called Realism holds states to be the primary actors in world politics; in this formulation, states are states: unsentimental actors whose primary raison d’etat is survival. In the quest for survival, states seek to maximize their power: they seek and build alliances, indulge in arms racing, economic development and do whatever maximizes their power and security. States operate in an environment that is ‘anarchic’ : there is no world government out there and self help is then a virtue.

Realism is an ‘inside outside’ theory. That is, international and domestic politics are different domains. The ‘inside’- domestic politics- is the domain of peace and order. It is the ‘outside’- international politics- where threats to security emanate from given that this is the domain of conflict, competition, threats and even war. In the realist schema, built as it is around the primacy of the state and its concomitant, sovereignty, the ‘inside’ is something that statesmen and states should not worry about.

This brief adumbration of the premises and the postulates of Realism may help us put into perspective Modi’s UAE visit and its success. Here both the federating units of the UAE and India are states operating in an ‘anarchic’ world, where self help, security and power maximization are key. This is the classic domain of the outside. What happens inside is insignificant to both India and the UAE.

The putative cooperation between ‘Muslim’ UAE states and ‘Hindu’ India then falls on the spectrum and limes adumbrated by Realism. All this is lent poignancy by developments in the region and South Asia. The Middle East and the Gulf region is in flux: the United States- the traditional ‘ally’ and protector of the Gulf States is in relative decline and its default strategy towards these appears to be that of ‘offshore balancing’; Iran, with the signing of the nuke deal, will flex its muscles and aspire for regional hegemony, and the Islamic State(IS) is making advances. In this fluid condition, the UAE is seeking to diversify its security problematique and looking towards India. India, for its part, needs investment and other assurances accorded by the UAE. The putative cooperation also allows India to cock a snook at Pakistan- its arch enemy and a Muslim state.

What lessons can Indian Muslims draw from this?

The first lesson is, that in a world of states, state interest or raison d’etat matters. The notion of the Ummah is relegated to the back burner in this world of states. And that it is the ‘outside’ which is significant than the ‘inside’. There’s really no one out that that really cares beyond rhetorical support and what you have. In this schema, what matters is what you - as a community or as individuals - have to offer. The upshot is that in a world, which Thomas Friedman of the NY Times, was defined by many democratizations, which included democratization of the individual sphere and its concomitant empowerment, Muslims can, instead of being ‘superempowered angry men’ be super empowered enlightened men/woman. The route to this ‘super empowerment’ lies through education , economic development and engagement with the world at large. This is the message that Indian Muslims must draw from Modi’s UAE visit. Let the Muslim community in India then take a deep breath, introspect and then make that fateful decision to educate themselves and the community. The world then will be their oyster.

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