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February - March 2008


2008: 60th Year of the Republic Heralds India's Century

by Krishan Ralleigh

It is beyond doubt that India has entered a new phase of development in the 21st century. The year 2001 brought to an end the first decade of economic liberalisation started by Dr Manmohan Singh, the finance minister under the Congress government of Mr. Narasimha Rao. In 2001, the National Democratic Alliance government under Mr Atal Behari Vajpai of Bhartiya Janata Party continued economic liberalisation as an importan plank of its policies for rapid progress during its tenure. The New Alliance did not have any hangover of socialism, a main tenet of the Congress party under Jawahar Lal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. The populist slogan of socialistic pattern of society had a mass appeal; but eventually it led to centralised economy and corrupt bureaucracy stilting India’s economic growth.

The new millennium brought the glad tidings of increase of the GDP, foreign currency reserves and foreign direct investment (FDI). The Sun was rising in the distant horizon; but the people had yet to feel the comfort and warmth of affluence. Premature euphoria among the members of National Democratic Alliance and the BJP brought defeat at the hustings; and the Congress party with its allies formed the government under the label of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). Dr Manmohan Singh was, very wisely, given the stewardship of the new government, although Sonia Gandhi could have become the Prime Minister if she so desired. Her farsightedness proved a boon for India as well as the Congress, as the new government could not be criticised on the pretext of being led by a foreign-born individual.

The UPA government under Dr Manmohan Singh could now wholeheartedly focus on expediting the process of liberating Indian economy and consequently accelerate the econmic growth. Politically it was still in shackles in the form of communist allies negotiating for a minimum common programme. This constrained the much anticipated leap in the economic growth.. In the last three years Dr. Manmohan Singh, his finance minister M. Chidambaram, and the dynamic minister for Commerce and Industry Mr. Kamal Nath have achieved much resulting in the substantial economic growth. There have been pitfalls. The latest hurdle imposed by the communist allies of the Congress party in the successful conclusion of Indo-American nuclear treaty may yet bring down the UPA government; and with that the aspirations of millions of Indians.

We, in this Republic Day issue, have given prominent coverage to a book written by one of the stalwarts of the Congress party who is not only an astute politician but a visionary who can visualise India’s destiny in the context of wider horizons of space and time. His eye-opening book INDIA’S CENTURY needs to be read by all who aspire for India to realise her bright destiny in as short a time as possible. The book is not a jingoist drum-beating, but a well-researched treatise which raises many questions and gives definite directions for India’s success. Whether India will follow these directions is yet to be seen; the Congress party does not have to worry about ‘After Manmohan Singh’ Who?. They are fortunate to have an eloquent magnetic personality who could easily take on the daunting position of prime minister when the Great Doctor wishes to be free of the rough and tumble of Indian politics which may be too demanding for his sage-like nature. The Congress party does not have to be hostage to left wing politicians of yesteryears when they have a youthful but mature leader of Kamal Nath’s stature.

Remembering Benazir...

(excerpts from our Editorial in January 1994)

The die is cast. Benazir Bhutto is in power again in Pakistan. On October 19, 1993 she was sworn in as the Prime Minister.

Miss Benazir Bhutto seems to have learnt the art of creating equilibrium out of mutually contrasting interests of amy generals, religious leaders, common masses and the feudal elite like her own family.

It is a good omen for the Indian subcontinent that Benazir, so well acquainted with the minds of westeren political strategists has taken the reign of power in Pakistan. Internally in her own country she has to walk a tightrope and endeavour to satisfy various conflicting interests. She cannot in one sweep disregard army generals or religious mullahs, but gradually with the strengthening of democratic process, growth in the economy and developing friendly relations with her neighbours-especially India-her stature will inevitably rise not only within Pakistan; but on the Indian subcontinent.

Miss Benazir Bhutto standing at the helm in Pakistan must see beyond her artificial borders to strengthen the security and prosperity of her own people.. (Alas! It was not to be).

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