Sun, Jan 20, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Public outrage shows India is in desperate need of renewal

By Jaswant Singh

Meanwhile, as India flounders, Northeast Asia has been astir choosing new leaders, who have now been installed in China, Japan, and North and South Korea. With an assertive China, ongoing regime change in Myanmar, a troubled Bangladesh, a constitutionally stymied Nepal and continuing ethnic tensions in Sri Lanka, India’s eastern challenges are many and mighty.

They are even more severe to India’s west, with Pakistan heading into elections (one hopes) in the spring of this year and NATO troops withdrawing from Afghanistan. Indian diplomacy faces a time of trial in both countries.

Farther west, too, India’s statecraft is in question. Where does India, which remains dependent on Middle Eastern energy, stand on that region’s many crises? How will it address the nuclear issue in Iran — a country with which it has close historical, cultural and economic ties — or the civil war in Syria, the rise of Salafism in Egypt and the Israel-Palestine standoff?

Moreover, India no longer appears to be the vigorous economic dynamo that was the darling of global investors only five years ago. Already some say that the “I” in BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) should now stand for Indonesia. India is running a high current account and fiscal deficits, food-price inflation is in the double digits and the rupee has weakened. As for trade with China, the Economist points out that “for every dollar’s worth of exports to China [principally raw materials], India imports three.”

Can outrage turn to catharsis? Clearly, the current government is unable to bring about any of the necessary changes. A possible answer lies in an early election: A new mandate for an India that is in desperate need of renewal.

Jaswant Singh is a former Indian minister of finance, former minister of foreign affairs and former minister of defense.

Copyright: Project Syndicate

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