Talks between India and Pakistan have always been a tricky issue, and lately, the Narendra Modi government was faced with the cancellation of talks between the National Security Advisers of the two nations.
So, on the last day of the Samanvay Baithak (coordination meeting) between the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party, when Dattatreya Hosabale, joint general secretary of the Sangh, gave political cover for the government to pursue dialogue with Pakistan, it came as a surprise. Many believed the Sangh’s idea of “Akhand Bharat”, or unified India, which included parts of the subcontinent sundered from it, would not favour support for talks with Pakistan.
RSS insiders, however, say the stand is in consonance with the concept of “Akhand Bharat” declared on April 12, 1964, by the former Jan Sangh president Deendayal Upadhyaya and the socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia.
“India is part of SAARC and has family-like cultural relations with neighbouring countries, be it Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan or Bangladesh. It was one body which was divided to form Pakistan and Bangladesh. It is natural that people living there are part of the same family,” Mr. Hosabale had said.
When reminded that there had been a spike in infiltration and cross-border firing between India and at least one of the “brother” countries, he replied, “Sometimes relations [go bad], like it happens between brothers and so we also discussed how we can improve our relations with those who are historically and geographically attached to us.” Mahesh Sharma, who heads the Deendayal Shodh Sansthan (Deendayal Research Centre) and is considered an expert on the Jan Sangh leader, says the RSS’s stance is “hardly new”.
“In a statement co-signed by Deendayal Upadhyaya and Ram Manohar Lohia in 1962, the conception of ‘Akhand Bharat’ is very clear. Both said that the division between India and Pakistan was historically proven as based on artificial grounds, and the governments of the two countries always indulged in tooti baatcheet [piecemeal dialogue] and toota vichar [piecemeal thinking],” he said.
Instead, he says, the Sangh Parivar has always said that a comprehensive framework should be established for talks.
Sangh insiders say that some reflection of this had been seen in former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s initiatives. “‘Akhand Bharat’ is conceived as more an idea of a loose confederation of a Hind-Pak Mahasangh,” said an office-bearer. In fact, the phrase finds mention in the Upadhyay-Lohia joint statement.
Upadhyaya’s 99th birth anniversary will be celebrated this year on September 25 with an exhibition of his photographs and works associated with him at the Nehru Memorial Library complex. “Hopefully, it will shed light on such unknown facts about his life,” Mr. Sharma says.