Saturday 24 Feb 2018 | 23:50 | SYDNEY
Saturday 24 Feb 2018 | 23:50 | SYDNEY

India's miracle of democracy (part 1)



18 May 2009 10:30

The Indian election results announced at the weekend amount to an unexpected and dramatic win for global stability. Hundreds of millions of Indian voters defied predictions that they would support sectarian, regional and caste-based parties and thus entrench new depths of deadlock in the world's largest democracy.

Instead, in a mass act of enlightened self-interest, they returned the secular Congress-led government of Dr Manmohan Singh with a massively increased majority of seats, reversing three decades of worsening atomisation and parochialism in Indian politics. Now the centre-left Congress can rule with a minimum number of coalition partners – unlike the motley multitude it had to share power with for the past five excruciating years — and with a mandate for reform in the national interest. 

After a boisterous campaign in which some figures from the Hindu nationalist opposition tried to bring issues of communal hatred into play, most voters opted instead for the Congress Party’s message of development and steadiness.

Suddenly, New Delhi can face the world with a popular government empowered to prosecute a pragmatic foreign, economic and security policy agenda. This is exceptionally good news for India and for its friends in the world, including Australia.

It comes not a moment too soon. India's strategic environment is in dangerous flux. Pakistan and Afghanistan are beset with bloody and emboldened Taleban insurgencies, and the US wants India to pay a large political price in its complicated strategy to keep them at bay. The civil war in Sri Lanka may be at an end, but at an enormous cost in human misery and future resentment, which may yet have wider geopolitical repercussions. New Delhi's security establishment is becoming alarmed at Chinese activities and ambitions, including in the Indian Ocean. And in the global arena, the immediate economic crunch and the slow burning climate crisis directly threaten the well-being of much of India's billion-plus population.

Even unusually rational and decisive action by New Delhi may not be enough to tip the scales on any of these problems, but at least India now has a fighting chance to cope with them for the next five-year term, and to lay the groundwork for long-term solutions.

Photo by Flickr user London Summit, used under a Creative Commons license.

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