A surprise op-ed by leading Chinese Daily ‘Global Times’ published on Wednesday credits Hinduism for keeping Islamic extremism at bay in the country. 

Titled ‘Hinduism Tied To India’s Geopolitical Standing’, the opinion piece by Ding Gang, a senior editor with People’s Daily, suggests that Indian Muslims have remained largely distant from radicalisation because of their relationship with Hinduism. 

The piece states:

“Indian Muslims seldom have extreme organizations compared with groups in many other Asian countries. In the southern part of the Philippines, extremists backed by Islamic State have turned their occupied cities into horrible places. In southern Thailand, terror attacks staged by Muslim extremists take place almost every week. I believe the answer may lie in the facets of the country’s other major religion: Hinduism.”

It further states:

“In the long history of India, Hinduism has gone far beyond a religion to become a lifestyle and social institution. Both its extreme and tolerant sides have constituted the foundation for its relationship with Muslims and this dual character is going to exist for a long time. The result of this relationship has made India a barrier for the spread of radical Islam on the global geopolitical landscape.”

Why is the op-ed surprising?

This analysis is amusing because one, it comes just days after India’s diplomatic victory over the Doklam Standoff and two, it seems to be in contradiction to a previous opinion piece published by the same daily in the month of July. Titled ‘Hindu Nationalism Risks Pushing India Into War With China’, the previous piece suggested how the border row was actually fulfilling the demands of ‘India’s religious nationalists’. 

The piece said:

“Nationalist fervor that demands revenge against China has taken root in India since the border war. The election of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has fueled the country’s nationalist sentiments. Modi took advantage of rising Hindu nationalism to come to power.”

It also said:

“Indians attach great importance to spiritual matters while Chinese are more concerned about material matters. Such different worldviews are the source and explanation of all differences between China and India as well as the misunderstandings the two peoples harbor toward each other.”

This contradiction didn’t to unnoticed on social media:

A change of heart?

Gives how both the pieces are a commentary on the role of the dominant Hindu religion in Indian polity, this marked changed in tone seems like a change of heart. Or is there more?

Media rhetoric is a key part of China’s foreign policy. And the new editorial seems like an exercise in damage control ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China next week for the BRICS Summit.  

(Feature image source: Reuters)