India decides

The INC has won with a surprising margin, emerging as the single largest party in what was a massive democratic exercise. In contrast, the defeat was disheartening and beyond expectation for BJP, the Left and the regional parties. The Indian elections have been a blow for small regional parties, the communists and the Hindu fundamentalists. Regional and fundamental slogans didn’t work in India, despite recent memory of terrorist attacks and separatist movements. The communists had been critical of Dr. Singh’s economic reforms and attempts to build nuclear partnership with the United States. The election results has also reversed the trend of small, regional party bosses dictating their terms to the center, sometimes in terms that were detrimental to the national interests. The election reflected people’s desire for a stronger center, with parties that emphasized social responsibility and economic development. The INC, and Dr. Singh in particular, deserve strong applause for continuing to stand by the voice of reason in a region afflicted by divisiveness and extremism. That INC and its allies scored decisively in West Bengal and Kerala, where the communist parties held sway, is reflective of the changing voter preference for real economic agenda and not mere inflammatory slogans.

His major challenges include instability in the whole of South Asia from Afghanistan to Sri Lanka, the impact of global economic recession and growing economic disparity. Described as a soft-spoken economic reformer, Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh, with the strategic backing of Sonia Gandhi, has been able to lead the country through a grueling period. The INC’s victory augurs well for the strategic partnership between the United States and India, both of whom have been extremely concerned about developments in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Given this partnership, their strategic approach to Nepal is also likely to persist. The unexpected defeat of the BJP shows that the Indian people have not lost hope on prosperity and trust the government to protect the people from negative effects of globalization. It also shows that divisive slogans and over hyped issues don’t really resonate with the electorate.

The electoral results indicate that India’s policies on Nepal is likely to continue as it has. A concern for security remains a major focus of India, given the instability in the region as well as in different parts of India. However, with the mandate for a stronger government, the prospects of stability in the neighborhood is a good sign for Nepal. Nepal’s central priority at present heavily banks on carrying out the peace process to a logical conclusion. As a reminder, the Indian foreign policy as regards Nepal has been critical in resolving the decade long Maoist civil war, and in creating a republic. The hopes are well founded that the Indian policy will continue to support the peace process with Nepal being able to resolve issues related to integration of Maoist combatants, drafting a constitution and restructuring the state. Though the relationship between the UCPN-Maoists and India has visibly soured in recent months, it cannot be taken as an indicator of things that will affect the interests of the people and the country.