- The Washington Times - Monday, July 21, 2003

MADRAS, India — India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is heading for a confrontation with its ideological driving force over Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s new conciliatory tone in border disputes with Pakistan and China.

The right-wing BJP heads a coalition government in New Delhi comprising more than a dozen disparate national and regional parties, forcing it to take a moderate line on various issues. The BJP has its ideological roots in the Hindu nationalist movement Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), but in the recent past it has been slowly moving away from the RSS’s hard line.

In a resolution on international affairs adopted by its national executive meeting earlier this month, the RSS warned the federal government against accepting the India-Pakistan Line of Control and the India-China Line of Actual Control as international borders.

The RSS welcomed the recent “success” of Mr. Vajpayee’s diplomatic initiatives with the two neighbors, but said India must try to retrieve “every inch of the land” of Kashmir occupied by China and Pakistan.

Cautioning that the “track record” of the two neighbors is “anything but credible,” the RSS resolution on “international scenario and border security” said: “Pakistan had annexed one-third of Jammu and Kashmir and transferred a part of it to China. Likewise, China had grabbed a large tract in Ladakh (a predominantly Buddhist region of the state) through aggression. We can ignore these lessons of history only to our peril.”

The resolution insisted that any effort toward accepting the cease-fire lines with Pakistan and China as the international border “will not be acceptable to the nation.”

Thousands of RSS activists gathered July 5-6 in Kanyakumari, in the southern tip of India, to discuss issues ranging from the dispute over a mosque-temple site in northern India to next year’s general elections and border security.

The RSS, which supports the existence of an independent Tibet as a buffer state between India and China, has criticized Mr. Vajpayee for conceding Beijing’s control of Tibet during a visit to China last month.

“We appreciate the way our leaders are trying to improve relations with neighbors like China and Pakistan. But they should not forget that more than half of Kashmir has been occupied by those two neighbors and India has to make every effort to retrieve those lost lands,” said Ram Madhav, a spokesman of the RSS.

Analysts say the BJP-led federal government may get annoyed at the interference of RSS in foreign-policy matters, but the party can hardly choose to ignore its ideological mentor and organizational gatekeeper.

“The RSS, the ideological fountainhead of all Hindu organizations, controls the Hindu party of BJP,” said Praful Bidwai, a New Delhi-based commentator.

Many top BJP leaders, including Mr. Vajpayee and Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani, are former RSS activists.

The RSS, which was set up in 1920 with the avowed aims to promote Hindu culture and turn India into a Hindu nation, has 4.5 million active cadre across the country today.

Although accused by its critics of promoting militant extremism and inciting hatred against religious minorities, the group is seen as one of the most influential nationalist forces in India.

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