While the saner elements in Indian society are piqued by the spate and intensity of religiously-motivated violence, fear of incarceration at the hands of Hindu zealots prevents them from publicly airing their indignation. In its 2018 annual report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom stated that the ‘conditions for religious minorities had deteriorated over the last decade due to a multifaceted campaign by Hindu-nationalist groups’. It went on to note that religious minorities routinely ‘faced challenges ranging from acts of violence or intimidation, to the loss of political power, to increasing feelings of disenfranchisement and otherness.’ A similar observation was made by Eliza Griswold, an American journalists who stated that Prime Minister Modi had ‘legitimized India’s more militant groups,’ and because of his Hindu nationalist rhetoric ‘targeted attacks against religious minorities were on the rise.’ Mohammad Ali, an Indian journalist provided an even more damning account of the violence pervading Indian society when he wrote that ‘lynching (in India) has become a nationalist project… and few perpetrators are punished, which has created a culture of impunity. Killers are lauded in some quarters as heroes for defending the faith and eradicating Muslims.It has further been noted that ‘the rhetoric espoused by Modi and the B.J.P. has also intensified tensions in KashmirGiven the setbacks faced by BJP in recent months, the party has resorted to adopting a strategy of promoting a nationalistic rhetoric to downplay their abysmal performance. With elections due in April, the failure of Prime Minister Modi to deliver on the inclusive economic development agenda, promised in 2014, may have dissipated his popularity. Furthermore, BJP’s recent defeats in the Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh Assembly polls exposed its pregnability less than six months before the general elections. BJP’s reckless populism and jingoistic appeals to nationalism may work with the national audience but will unerringly have security implications beyond domestic politics. Its invocation of anti-Pakistan spite has increased the likelihood of conflict initiation with Pakistan, suggesting that BJP is once again leaning towards a militant strategy prior to the upcoming national elections. Indian political analysts suggest that ‘Modi will try to distract voters from the slowing economy by doubling down on nationalist rhetoric.’ Indeed, ‘with little to show in terms of economy or development, Modi’s only remaining platform is nationalism.’ It has further been noted that ‘the rhetoric espoused by Modi and the B.J.P. has also intensified tensions in Kashmir.’ Although India is festering with a number of separatist movements, the unresolved Kashmir issue may prove to be its Achilles heel. India, under Prime Minister Modi, views Kashmir as a purely military problem that needs to be dealt with through harsh and repressive action. BJP leaders, including Modi, claim that ‘Jammu and Kashmir’s special status [under Indian law] has only served to encourage Kashmiri separatist elements, and Hindu nationalists have long sought its removal from the Constitution.’ The relentless crackdown in the region by security forces has not only intensified the movement, but it has also provoked a rising wave of militancy. The recent attack in Pulwama in which over 40 CRPF personnel were killed was the inevitable outcome of such short-sighted policies by the Delhi government.Furthermore, in a knee-jerk reaction, India blamed Pakistan for the attack. As a result, the government with the active support of fear mongering broadcasters clamoured for revenge as tensions escalated, nearly bringing the two nuclear states to the precipice of war. Following the attacks, Indian security forces have been carrying out uninhibited persecution of the Kashmiris while Kashmiri students around the country have been subjected to shameful treatment. The government’s strategy of subjugation through brute military force has radicalized the movement. The Modi government has clearly failed to comprehend the rationale behind the resurgence of the uprising and therefore, has been unable to devise an effective policy response. According to one analyst, the Kashmir movement as it stands today ‘is probably driven less by geopolitics than by internal Indian politics, which have increasingly taken an anti-Muslim direction.’ Pulwama is a powerful warning that unless India finds a peaceful resolution to the Kashmir imbroglio, stability in the region will continue to unravel. This will effect security and economic growth both in India and Pakistan. Therefore, Modi needs to abjure his intransigence and create greater scope for political solutions. He would do the region a favour by accepting the Pakistani Prime Minister’s offer for peace and reconciliation, otherwise there exists a real likelihood of India self-destructing in its enmity for Pakistan.The writer is a former Ambassador. Published in Daily Times, March 19th 2019.