The external affairs ministry on Friday sought to contain the spread of concern in neighbouring countries about the installation of the Akhand Bharat mural in the new Parliament building by maintaining that it “depicts the spread of the Ashokan Empire and the idea of responsible and people-oriented governance that he adopted and propagated”.
A spokesperson for the ministry, Arindam Bagchi, while responding to questions on the protests in Nepal and Pakistan about the mural that includes in the map of India areas within the jurisdiction of both countries, said: “That’s what the mural and the plaque in front of the mural says.”
While Nepal has not officially protested, several leading Nepalese politicians, including two former Prime Ministers, have spoken out against the mural’s installation. Pakistan’s foreign ministry has called the inclusion of the map in the new Parliament building a “manifestation of a revisionist and expansionist mindset”.
Though Pakistan’s foreign ministry had commented on the mural at its weekly briefing on Thursday, Bagchi maintained that he was unaware of it.
As for the protests in Nepal, he iterated that Nepalese Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” had not raised the issue during his bilateral engagement with India on Thursday.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesperson, in a detailed response to a question on the mural, said: “The mural depicts the so-called ancient India, including areas that now constitute parts of Pakistan and other regional countries. We are appalled by the statements made by some BJP politicians, including a Union minister, linking the mural with Akhand Bharat (Unified greater India). The gratuitous assertion of Akhand Bharat is a manifestation of a revisionist and expansionist mindset that seeks to subjugate the identity and culture of not only India’s neighbouring countries but also its own religious minorities.
“It is a matter of grave concern that the idea of Akhand Bharat is being increasingly peddled by individuals belonging to the ruling dispensation in India. The Indian politicians are well-advised not to indulge in rhetoric against other countries merely to further their divisive and parochial political agenda. Instead of nurturing hegemonic and expansionist ambitions, India should resolve disputes with its neighbours and work with them to build a peaceful and prosperous South Asia.”
The minister that the spokesperson was referring to was parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi who had after the inauguration of the new Parliament building on Sunday tweeted a picture of it and said in Kannada: “The resolve is clear... Akhand Bharat.”
The inclusion of the mural in Parliament House along with the minister’s tweet lent credibility to the assumption that the Narendra Modi government had now set its eyes on working towards the Hindutva ideal of an India that would extend beyond the current borders to include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka; leaving the external affairs ministry with the task of containing the damage of such a threat to the sovereignty of neighbouring countries.