As a result of this election, Manmohan Singh will continue to stay as the prime minister. Despite Daniel Twining, former Policy Assistant to Senator John McCain, comments that staunch partnership with the United States is a policy consensus in India beyond partisan politics, the victory of the Congress Party is good news for the War on Terror in South Asia and foreign investment in India. Let me review news reports and commentaries by American, British, and Indian media.
The election result has some implications to Indian politics. Regional parties and leftists dwindled substantially. Professor Makesh Rangarajan at Delhi University points out that the pendulum has swung away from dependence on small parties since 1991 to the surge of the Congress Party this election (“Indian Election Sidelines Regional Parties, Strengthens Congress Party”; VOA News, 20 May 2009). The Congress Party has achieved success through tandem leadership by Sonia Gandhi, Italian-born mother of assumed future Prime Minister Raul Gandhi, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (“India's 'odd couple' take up reins of power”; AFP; May 22, 2009). In addition, voters are concerned with Hindu nationalist BJP, the primary opposition to the Congress. The Indian public does not want Hindu-Muslim antagonism (“Congress comes back”; Economist; May 16, 2009).
Chart and Map: (“Singh when you're winning”; Economist; May 21, 2009)
Domestic stability contributes to better foreign relations. The Obama administration regards India continually led by the Congress Party as an invaluable ally in the War on Terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan, nuclear non-proliferation, climate change, and free trade (“US can't expect too much, too soon from India: US media”; Indian Express; May 21, 2009).
Regarding the War on Terror, the second Singh administration will give a priority to security and Hindu-Muslim reconciliation after the Mumbai terrorist attack (“Indian government pledges security focus”; Guardian; 20 May 2009). Prime Minister Singh is a Sikh, as distinctive turban and his surname implies. He is in a good position to promote tolerance between these two religions, which is a key to improve relations with Pakistan.
Foreign investors in India feel satisfied with the result. Their primary concern was not the rise of Hindu nationalist BJP, as there is no substantial difference in economic policy between the Congress and BJP. Investors’ main fear was an indecisive election. Exit polls had suggested a tight race between Congress and the BJP. There was even a chance of a stalemate that would have left the way open for an economically regressive government of the Third Front, a newly formed group led by the Communists (“India's election delivers investors much needed stability”; Daily Telegraph; 18 May 2009). Kamal Nath, a senior leader of the Congress Party, says that the new administration will pursue further economic decentralization in finance, retail, real estate, and labor (“Election Results Fuel Optimism for Economic Reforms in India”; Washington Post, May 21, 2009).
Many analysts interpret that Indian voters support economic liberalization by Manmohan Singh. The Prime Minister faces no serious challenges to implement the US-Indian nuclear deal and pursue energy security in return. However, the second Singh administration needs to stimulate domestic demand and save the poor in view of the global financial crisis, along with pursuing pro-market economic policy (“Success puts India's new ruling class under pressure”; Independent; 18 May 2009).
Indian voters have given credit to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and the Obama administration must not ruin a positive legacy of the Bush administration. This blog will continue to keep an eye on India, particularly in relation to Pakistan and Afghanistan.