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Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

May 20, 2004

May 20, 2004





**  The BJP didn't address the "basic demands" of the "poor and marginal sectors."  


**  India rejected the BJP's "divisiveness and xenophobia" and backed a "more secular society."


**  India's Congress must restrain the "Marxist junkies" in its new coalition.


**  Papers predict continued thaw with Pakistan but "greater distance from Washington."




'The rural poor turned' on the BJP and 'trampled' it--  Dailies overwhelmingly agreed that the BJP lost because it ignored the "growing poverty of the rural masses" and their distrust of "capitalism and unbridled open markets."  India's nationalist Hindustan Times termed the vote "an expression of the impatience of the people who want to better their condition now" and a rejection of the BJP's "own self-serving myths" about its economic program's success.  Canada's leading Globe and Mail cited the "anger of millions of poor people" who voted for Congress because they have "seen none of the benefits of the current boom that has transformed the Indian economy into one of the world's fastest-growing." 


'A triumph of secular values' over the BJP's 'revivalist zeal'--  Outlets said the "vote against nationalism and sectarianism" proved the BJP's Hindutva ideology "is on the wane"; India's pro-reform Economic Times stated a majority of voters "supports secular politics" and opposes "communal carnage."  Canadian and Spanish analysts predicted Congress would "distance India from Vajpayee's problematic Hindu nationalism" and "recover India's secular character."  Muslim writers hailed the confirmation that India "transcends ephemeral distinctions of creed," with Pakistan's center-left Dawn hoping the vote will "encourage secular forces" in South Asia.


'Unruffle the ruffled feathers of the business community'--  Several papers noted that the "presence of the Left in the power structure" of the new ruling coalition has sparked fears that the new government will perform an "about-face on...privatization and other economic reforms that gained pace under the BJP."  The UAE's expatriate-oriented Khaleej Times blamed the "commies' much-trumpeted opposition to reforms" for the post-election "unprecedented market crash."  After the stock slump, the centrist Indian Express urged Congress to "restore sanity--among its leftist partners as well as the equally sentimental bourses."   


'Relations with America will be revised'--  Russian and Chinese papers saw "little impact" on India's foreign policy, but others forecast that Congress's "traditional anti-imperialistic reflex" might lead the new government to "distance itself from America."  Pakistani dailies concluded that the "Indian electorate favors peace with Pakistan" because the issue "did not emerge as a major election issue"; the centrist News appreciated the "encouraging words of continuing the peace and normalization process" made by Congress leaders.


EDITOR:  Ben Goldberg


EDITOR'S NOTE:  Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment.  Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion.  This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government.  This analysis was based on 56 reports from 19 countries over  14 - 19 May 2004.  Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.




INDIA:  “Historical Blunder Again"


Calcutta-based centrist Urdu-language Azad Hind asserted (5/18):  "The decision that the left parties took against participation in a Sonia-led government at the center is mainly based on an ideology related to regional politics more than internal differences of opinion. But this sort of step does not always prove to be fruitful. The best example is Chandrababu Naidu of Andhra Pradesh who gave support to the Vajpayee government from outside for five years, but what was the ultimate result? He was thrown out of power. The left parties have a golden opportunity to spread their influence throughout the country by joining the center. Although, the leftists said that they would join the central government in the future, they should not unduly delay because their participation is certain to prove fruitful for them as well as the country.”


“The 'D' Word" 


The centrist Asian Age declared (5/17):  "Disinvestment has been made a dirty word in the political lexicon of all right thinking people. Disinvestment per se is not bad, but the way in which the outgoing BJP-led National Democratic Alliance packaged it, was scandalous....  The intention here is not to malign the BJP-led NDA Now that it is down and out; but to put the record straight, so that the correction is viewed in the spirit in which it is being done.  The stock market is no doubt wary about the Left and former finance minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has been going out of his way to unruffle the ruffled feathers of the business community.  But the truth is, that disinvestment in its NDA format cannot be continued. This puts a tremendous responsibility on the Congress and the Left. It is one thing to say that the public sector should not be divested, but it is even more important to see that the public sector units are not made the milch cows of the administrative ministry that they come under.  Since the successive Congress regimes, minister, members of Parliament and bureaucrats have made the public sector their fiefdoms to be rifled at will....  The units should be professionally managed and under no circumstances should they be made playthings of these three groups.  Additionally, there should be a complete study of the profitable and non-profitable units and the returns on investment to rebut the vicious propaganda that public sector units are inefficient.”


“The More Things Change" 


Manoj Joshi wrote in the nationalist Hindustan Times (5/17):  "It will be tempting to see Verdict 2004 for what it is not: a mandate for any one of the parties....  Notwithstanding claims of party ideologues and fellow-travelers, the sum total of the verdict suggests that no one is seeking a revolutionary change. The call is for a change in nuance rather than substance, ironically brought out by the Left’s fulminations against disinvestment....  In other words, in large part, the new government will not deviate too much from the middle path set by Vajpayee....  The one area where there is likely to be little change will be foreign and security affairs. While the Congress has been critical of the NDA’s over-cosy approach to the U.S., the issue must now take a back seat as the electoral process unfolds in the U.S....  The new Congress team will have little problem in picking up the threads of the relations with Pakistan and China....  Perhaps the biggest challenge that the new government will face in foreign and security policy is to go through with the reforms of the security system initiated by the Group of Ministers report of the NDA government....  But the first government of the party in this millennium and century will operate in a completely altered global and domestic environment, their best bet is to find new solutions for the problems rather than retreading old ones.”


"Electoral Lesson" 


Independent Guwahati-based Assamese-language Asomiya Khabor declared (5/16):  "Snubbing the BJP's malicious campaign against the Nehru-Gandhi family, this election has demonstrated that common people have already accepted the 'foreign daughter-in-law' their hearts. Rejection of the BJP's 'feel good' factor publicity resulted in a change of regime at the center....  Now, the Congress-led government has to be careful in addressing fundamental problems of the people. The lesson this election has taught to our political parties is that no government could stay in power for long by ignoring basic demands of the poor people.  The stability of the Congress-led government will also depend, therefore, on its understanding this reality."


"What Have Our People Said?"


Anuradha M. Chenoy noted in the pro-economic-reforms Economic Times (5/16):  "The election results have come as surprise to all....  To deconstruct the mandate, the largest chunk shows that it supports secular politics.  A government that sits back and watches communal carnage as in Gujarat; allows state institutions including the police and judiciary to be communally biased; parades the chief minister that the highest court of the land indicts and calls the modern day Nero as its election mascot, cannot make policy nationally.  Not just the minorities but the people as a whole will not tolerate this....  There is thus no single story to this election.  But there is one clear thread. People of this country need a government that recognizes difference that respect diversity; that does not impose one religion of ideology; that is inclusive; gives them equity and ensures rights.  The only way to do this is to ensure that democratic, liberal and constitutional institutions are strengthened and revitalized. Or we will have yet more shock.”


“Tame The Bull, Rein In The Red" 


Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta opined in the centrist Indian Express (5/15):  "The reason the Sensex crashed 330 points is a simple one. The not know the politics, style or the language of the Left. The politicians of the Left, quite similarly, do not know the markets....  It is time both learnt a little bit more about each other. This is a globalizing India in a globalizing world, so the Left cannot hide from the markets. Similarly, the presence of the Left in the power structure, the message of impatience from the voters in this election, is a reality the markets have to make provision for....  For decades, the comrades have seen wealth creation as an immoral activity and money as the great satan....  Therefore, don’t expect these comrades to figure out how a mere statement made in anger, irritation--and to be fair, in passing...can not merely shave one lakh crore from your own nation’s market cap, it can also color the market’s perception of your politics and sense of responsibility....  It is therefore the responsibility of the Congress not only to disabuse them of these notions but to also keep them in control, even if it takes too long to win them over to the cause of reform or globalization....  As the dominant leader of this coalition, it is for the Congress now, as it recovers from the shock and awe of its unexpected victory, to restore sanity--among its leftist partners as well as the equally sentimental bourses.”


“History Will Judge Vajpayee Favorably" 


Right-of-center Marathi-language Mumbai-based Tarun Bharat editorialized (5/15):  "In his last address to the nation, Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee said history will fairly evaluate his prime ministership....  While expressing surprise over the unexpected poll verdict in favor of the Congress party, the New York Times has given its due credit to Vajpayee. While taking note of the liberalizing economic policies carried out by Vajpayee-led governments, the paper has observed that the poor voters of India remain unimpressed by the `statistically impressive economic growth’ whose fruits did not seem to have reached them. The paper has further concluded that the Italian-born Congress party leader, Sonia Gandhi, has benefited from the uneasiness over the economic change....  The paper has said that Vajpayee can generally be proud of his six years as the longest-serving head of the non-Congress Party government. He was a moderating force within his party, and history is likely to judge his economic policies and his diplomatic initiatives favorably....  Similarly, Britain’s Guardian has also applauded Vajpayee for reviving the Indian economy from the malaises of shortages and black marketeering....  It has expressed doubts about the performance of the Congress Party, which has unexpectedly come to power on a negative vote against the National Democratic Alliance government headed by Vajpayee....  The dependence of the Congress on the parties of the left will add to the confusion over the nature of the economic reforms in India.  The Guardian has judged Vajpayee’s regime as democratic, as opposed to the dynastic rule perpetrated by the Congress.”


"Interesting Times Ahead"


The Mumbai-based left-of-center Free Press Journal held (5/14):  "Only the brave and foolhardy will guarantee longevity to a Sonia Gandhi-led government supported from outside by the treacherous leftists, but the widow of Rajiv Gandhi by occupying the highest executive office might have a thing or two to prove to her former compatriots back in Italy and her adopted nation, where there are many vocal critics disputing her right to prime ministership due to her foreign origins....  But a more pertinent question would be whether someone with little or no administrative experience and virtually non-existent academic and intellectual experience wherewithal can lead this county well given its chronic problems of economic and social under-development.  Interesting times are ahead in the India polity.  The Congress is bound to falter in government, particularly when it is crucially dependent for survival on the Marxist junkies whose right place is in the dustbin of history and not on treasury benches of a nation seeking to become a developed nation by 2020.  If it plays its card well, the BJP might re-discover its élan as a formidable opposition both inside and outside parliament."


"Voters Have Spoken" 


An editorial in the centrist Indian Express read (5/14):  "In Election 2004 that faceless, voiceless entity called the voter has transmogrified into a veritable demolition machine, which has just laid low some of the tallest figures on the political spectrum....  The biggest mistake the NDA made was to have actually believed its own self-serving myths....  It perceived brisk cell phone sales and cheap housing loans as symbolizing a nation on the move. It believed that it could wish away the post-Godhra communal riots in Gujarat--among the worst in the nation's history--and move on....  What the election results have just indicated is that even if the NDA was foolish enough to swallow its own myths, voters were not prepared to do so....  The very fact that Sonia Gandhi's foreign origins did not stir the air despite the best efforts of the BJP indicates that Hindutva as an ideology is on the wane....  A quick assessment seems to indicate that voters everywhere have become much more conscious of their rights as citizens and of the power of their votes. People will increasingly deploy the strength that democracy gives them to get better lives for themselves and a better future for their children. Election 2004, then, was about rising popular expectations and the ability--or inability--of leaders to address them."


"BJP Swept Away In Tidal Wave" 


Mahesh Rangarajan observed in the centrist Calcutta-based Telegraph (5/14):  "The real story of the election can be told in two words: Sonia Gandhi....  Her speeches focused on the big questions that bothered the common man and woman: jobs, agriculture and the need for harmony. The late surge of the Congress was missed by the pollsters. The results left not a shadow of doubt. It was a tidal wave that swept away all in sight....  If anything, it was the micro-management gurus of the ruling alliance who got it all wrong. The attacks probably helped Sonia gain a sense of empathy from the voters....  The NDA dismissed her as a paper tiger. Once it was too late, it tried damage control by wooing the most unlikely of potential allies. But the voters had other ideas....  For Sonia, winning might have been the easy part. Ruling a diverse coalition with competing demands is a new game for the Congress. But the voters rung in the new and rung out the old. And they did it as they often have in the world's largest democracy, decisively and clearly."


"The New Government" 


The nationalist Hindustan Times contended (5/14):  "After hearing the exit polls and pundits for the past month or so, the people have spoken. And their voice is clear--the BJP-led NDA government must go....  Despite a booming economy, good monsoons and the changed climate of relations with Pakistan, voters remained unconvinced. It would be easy to ascribe the NDA's defeat to the elector's negative answer to the apocryphal question: are you better off now than you were five years ago? But the fact is that the Congress bested the BJP in the coalition sweepstakes....  There will be a temptation within the Sangh parivar to revert to the Hindutva line....  In some ways, the vote was not so much against Vajpayee's policies, but an expression of the impatience of the people who want to better their condition now.  The elections' other clear message is that the Congress party is not dead and if it can successfully lead the country in the coming years, it could well return to its former glory....  But the clearest message from the voters is that Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin is not--and has not been--an issue. Given the role the Congress president played in her party's remarkably improved fortunes, there are no doubts now that the prime ministership of the country is Ms Gandhi's for the asking....  Now she must shoulder even greater responsibility in setting up a workable coalition that will provide good governance to this nation of 1 billion."


"The Question Is, 'What Should Be Done?'"


Assistant Editor Rongon Chakrabarty asked in independent Calcutta-based Bengali-language Ananda Bazar Patrika (5/14):  "People have chosen the Leftists out of anger, frustration, and mistrust. The outcome of this election bears similarity to a large extent to movements in the entire world against capitalism and unbridled open markets as well as America's high-handedness. What would the Leftists do with such a grand mandate? They have a very hard task before them. It is not possible to conceive any state mechanism in isolation, unrelated to the rest of the world....  America's role as a terrorist has been increasing ever since the fall of the USSR. It has become all the more desperate by failing  to contain Iraq. It may enter into any country on one pretext or the other. In West Bengal we are seeing a somber kind of Marxism....  If the Leftists join the new federal government how would they tackle the compulsions of the global market? How would they protect labor rights by contesting with these multinationals? How would they save farmers from falling victims to the trap of businessmen doling out loans, seeds and pesticides? How would they tackle the intricacies and ruthlessness of the WTO and other world bodies? People have voted them to Parliament with so many aspirations in their heart." 


"Exhilarating Victory Of Congress" 


Calcutta-based nationalist Urdu-language Akhbar-E-Mashriq concluded (5/14):  "The number 13 is generally considered to be very inauspicious and it has proved to be true in case of the BJP. May 13 has brought only despondency for them, which they never previously thought about....  We should offer greetings to Sonia Gandhi, the President of the Congress Party for her relentless struggle against the communal forces and achieving victory over them. At the same time we are taking the privilege to caution her that Indian politics is just like 'an ocean of fire' that she will have to face....  We are also hopeful that she will look after the genuine causes of the minorities, especially the Muslims, who have constantly been the victims of injustice on all stages since the partition of the country."


PAKISTAN:  "New Indian PM"


An editorial in the centrist national English-language News read (5/18):  "The propitious words that Mrs Sonia Gandhi uttered in respect of the peace process between the two countries provided good copy but was too little to hint at a possible breakthrough in the relations. It will be wrong to go into raptures so soon....  The fact is that just as we consider it a core issue, the Indians view it in similar light.  At no time has any Indian leader hinted at settling the issue in a manner that will be satisfactory for Pakistan....  However, one can expect that American influence might induce the Indians to continue the peace process. But even this is not certain as it not clear whether Delhi will continue the considerable proximity that both Delhi and Washington had managed. Analysts suggest that the Congress government might like to distance itself from America."


"Neighborhood Pointers"


Karachi-based center-left independent national English-language Dawn declared (5/16):  "The Congress victory is being depicted as a triumph of secular values over the revivalist zeal of the BJP and particularly the latter's co-habitants like the RSS and the Shiv Sena.  Fundamentalism has not been rooted out and may indeed become even more aggressive and spiteful in defeat. But will the Congress win encourage secular forces in Pakistan and South Asia? This can only remain a hope till we are able to achieve a truly democratic system."


"Pak-India Prospects"


The center-right national English-language Nation contended (5/16):  "The assessment of some political circles at Islamabad that as the BJP in the past few days seemed to be retreating towards a hard-line stand, the changeover should be a matter of relief for Pakistan, is way off the mark....  If the 'settled' points, if any, would become 'open' again the situation would constitute a setback for the Musharraf government."


“Election Results In India”


Second-largest Urdu-language Nawa-e-Waqt concluded (5/15):  "The defeat of Vajpayee is a moment of reflection for Pakistani rulers, who had been expecting too much from the BJP government....  The people of Pakistan do not have any wishful thinking about the government of Sonia Gandhi nor they had any about that of Vajpayee....  If like Vajpayee President Musharraf’s friend Bush gets defeated in the November election, which is very much possible despite Mr. Jamali’s prayers, then the dangers for Pakistan’s transit, semi military, semi democratic system would increase manifolds."


"How Will A Change Of Govt. In India Affect Indo-Pak Relations?"


Najam Sethi mused in the Lahore-based liberal English-language Daily Times (5/14):  "The pundits and pollsters were all wrong.  The people of India weren’t as stupid as the designers of the 'Shining India' campaign believed.  Sure, the shine rubbed off on a section of the urban middle class but it certainly left the rest of India dry and dusty....  General Musharraf has already shown some impatience in wanting to move ahead with the composite dialogue while focusing on the 'core' issue of Kashmir.  Now he will have to cool his heels a bit more.  And if there is no meaningful headway with the Congress government before the summer is out, especially on Kashmir, he will come under pressure from his own side to open the Jihadi tap again. If that happens, the whole process could unravel in decidedly unfriendly ways." 


"India's Stunning Poll Results"


Karachi-based center-left independent national English-language Dawn argued (5/14):  "As the champion of the free market economy, the BJP came to be seen as being responsible for the growing poverty of the rural masses.  In fact, the party's 'India Shining' slogan clearly backfired with the common appears that the government which takes over in New Delhi will sustain the BJP's policy vis-a-vis Pakistan and Kashmir. Since this did not emerge as a major election issue in the campaign, one can safely assume that the Indian electorate favors peace with Pakistan. It can only be hoped that the BJP in opposition will not suddenly turn hawkish on this issue."


"Indian Upset"


The centrist national English-language News said (5/14):  "The future prime minister of India has uttered the usual encouraging words of continuing the peace and normalization process with Pakistan.  Probably given the heavy U.S. input that went into leading India and Pakistan to the negotiating table, it can be expected the process will be maintained by the new Indian management....  India’s policy towards Pakistan is a carefully crafted strategy, which is based on extensive studies and calculations.  It is not like our India policy, which mainly depends on the thinking of the presiding leader....  It was for this reason that former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had observed that had Ziaul Haq been alive the Kashmir issue would have been settled. President Musharraf and former Prime Minister Vajpayee had developed a sporting relationship and got on well together.  Pakistan’s leaders will now have to contend with a Prime Minister who will follow the tough tradition set by former prime ministers Indra Gandhi and her son Rajiv Gandhi."


BANGLADESH:  “India’s Elections Serve up Some Lessons”


The independent English-language New Age noted (5/17):  "Indian voters have underscored the idea that political power ought not to be taken for granted. In 1977, Indians shocked Indira Gandhi into defeat and then, three years later traumatized her successors by seeing her return to office. They gave Rajiv Gandhi a handsome mandate in 1984, only to take it back from him in 1989. And they have done it again this time. When investment-driven men like Chandrababu Naidu are driven from office and suave ministers like Yashwant Sinha lose their constituencies, it is a sign that democracy is in good, glowing health. Nothing - not privatization, not disinvestments, not computers, not nuclear strength--matters to people who know they have to walk miles to come by drinking water every day. What counts is the future of a countryside that waits for rain and hopes for an infusion of irrigation for the fields."


“India Is Truly Shining Now”


Editor Mahfuz Anam wrote in the influential, English-language Daily Star (5/16):  "India is definitely shining because of the majesty of democracy.  India is also shining because of the performance of its election Commission, its bureaucracy, both central and state, and its law enforcement agencies, including the army that worked under the EC.  Finally, India is shining because of the smoothness with which power transfer is taking place.  As a co-member of SAARC, as another country practicing democracy, as a partner in the struggle against poverty, as a member of the developing world, and as fellow south Asian country we feel proud at what India has achieved as a democracy.  Following this election India can claim to be a highly matured democracy."


SRI LANKA:  "Peace And Booming Economies Fail Two Governments"


Independent English-language Island commented (5/14):  "Peace and a booming economy did not work for the BJP just did not work for former Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe....  Cutting off agricultural subsidies, neglect of health, education, the high rate of inflation....  In the coming weeks Indian analysts will no doubt examine in depth where the BJP government failed....  They will be calling for socialism with a human face and/or capitalism with a human face, whatever they mean....  Of much importance to Sri Lanka will be the attitude of a Congress government towards the LTTE, which assassinated the husband of Sonia Gandhi.  However, it has also to be borne in mind that New Delhi’s Sri Lanka policies are swayed by Tamil Nadu compulsions.  Whatever the decisions of Sonia Gandhi may be, if she does head the next Indian government, some animals in the jungles of the Wanni will now be feeling quite uneasy, to say the least."




BRITAIN:  "The Dynasty Continues"


The left-of-center Guardian declared (5/14):  "The Hindu nationalist BJP were not just voted out of power, they were drummed out of it....  This too was a vote against nationalism and sectarianism.  If Mrs. Gandhi uses this mandate, it may herald a new era in Indian politics."


"Upset In India"


The conservative Times asserted (5/14):  "It must rank as one of the greatest election upsets of all time, matched perhaps only by the defeat of Churchill in 1945 and Truman's victory in 1948 in wrongfooting almost every political pundit....  She courted the villages, the poor and ethnic and religious minorities.  She focused her campaign not on the booming south, the middle classes or the high-tech centres but on the poor and populous north, especially Uttar Pradesh, a state of 170 million.  Numbers count in a democracy as vas as India's....  What she needs is a set of coherent policies to take India forward from the point it has now reached."


"India's Rural Voters Seek A Brighter Future"


The conservative Daily Telegraph opined (5/14):  "To achieve a parliamentary majority, Mrs. Gandhi will have to seek alliances with Left-wing parties.  That reorientation will not reverse economic deregulation initiated by a previous Congress government in 1991, but the pace of privatisation is likely to slow and more emphasis will be put on providing rural areas with the basic facilities of water, power and roads.  Mrs. Gandhi's commitment to strong, secular government is welcome."


GERMANY:  "India's Test"


Britta Peterson opined in business-oriented Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg (5/17):  "It would be no catastrophe if India's economic growth slows down in the next few years.  Unlike most developing countries, India is a land of remarkable political stability and little criminality.  One of the reasons is that the differences of living have always been less than on the American continent.  Most Indians don't want this to change.  They feel that social stability, tolerance, and democracy depend on the poorest being able to benefit from economic success.  They believe that it is worth to sacrifice some economic growth to this goal.  If Sonia Gandhi achieves this she will get her place in history, too."




Thomas Kielinger commented in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (5/15):  "You must be pretty hard-nosed not to see the overwhelming importance of the event [the Indian elections].  It is important because it shows the strength of the Indian democracy--which seems to be the longest lasting heritage of the British Empire.  The change of government should also awake politicians who believe people can be reached by slogans praising technical and economic advance… India has made a lot of progress over the recent years, but the 'other' India of 300 million poor people believed it was neglected.  This was the fertile ground for Sonia Gandhi and the Congress party.  Unlike the nationalistic Hindu party BJP, Gandhi will support a more secular society and pave the way for democracy further.  Many hopes are with her."


 "India, Brought Down To Earth"


Jochen Buchsteiner commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (5/14):  "The election result will probably bring India down to earth.  The next government will no longer talk big.  While the old government was dreaming of a leading position in a multipolar world, the new one will take care of the social instability.   However, we should not expect a substantial change of policy, even if Sonia Gandhi forms a coalition with the communists.  The left wing of the Congress party, which used to appreciate the semi-socialist economy for decades, has become very minor.  Non-ideological politicians are running the party today.  In general, they want to continue the path of the recent years.   The market liberalization might slow down, but the new government will not abandon it.  The new peace process with Pakistan is not controversial, but relations with America will be revised.  They improved under Vajpayee and developed into a 'strategic partnership'. But the Congress party has a traditional 'anti-imperialistic' reflex that might be easily triggered by the Bush government. Neither do the Communists, who believe in Marx and Lenin, favor Washington.   However, they are pragmatists where they are in government, like in West Bengal."


"Globalization Election"


Arne Perras held in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (5/14):  "The result reveals a deeply-rooted problem that has to do particularly with the change of the Indian economy.  Globalization means a lot of growth potential for India, but the poorest have not benefited from it yet.  While the higher and middle classes is getting richer, millions of people live in poverty.  And India still has a painful modernization path to go.   Globalization gurus are calling upon India to keep privatizing, liberalizing and cutting subsidies, but no one knows how to support millions of unemployed who have no perspective.  Vajpayee only reluctantly liberalized the market, because he feared social unrest.  The congress party, which must still grasp its victory and form a stable coalition, will be even more unwilling to change the economy further, because it promised social justice in the election campaign, which helped win the election.  The Congress party has never really pushed for social justice in its forty years of government before BJP come into power.  Now it must take care of the poor if it does not want to gamble away its credibility."


"New Foreign Policy?"


Willi Germund wrote in left-of-center Berliner Zeitung (5/14):  "It will be very interesting to see what India's new foreign policy will be like.  The Communists will demand keeping greater distance from Washington.  But India's new government might also be more reasonable when it comes to nuclear armament, while the Hindu nationalists did not spare any cost here.  Anyway, Sonia Gandhi will be very careful to make too many compromises, particularly in the relations with Pakistan, because of her Italian origin."


ITALY:  “Two Global Challenges”


Aldo Rizzo observed in centrist, influential La Stampa (5/14):  “It was a great surprise in India....  The Indian National Congress party won, led by Sonia Gandhi....  The economic growth of India, which is potentially one of Asia’s three giants, along side China and Japan, is the result of the much-criticized globalization....  Gandhi’s problems include foreign policy issues, which for India mostly means relations with Pakistan, an important and unstable Muslim country that, like India, also has the nuclear weapon, and that is also al-Qaeda’s object of desire. The thaw between New Delhi and Islamabad...which was obtained by the preceding government, is of interest to the entire world. Sonia said she would not modify the route. Best wishes to her and to all of us.”


RUSSIA:  "Pakistan Is Watching"


Vladimir Skosyrev said in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (5/18):  "In the early stages, no insurmountable differences are expected inside the ruling coalition.  But Congress will surely have to heed the opinion of its allies on the left and adjust the market reform policy that was pursued by the Vajpayee cabinet....  Neighboring Pakistan is closely watching, the local press wondering if Sonia Gandhi is capable of carrying on the settlement process started by Vajpayee.  Coming from a Hindu nationalist party, Vajpayee, a highly respected politician, used his influence to rein in BJP hotheads, helping to promote détente."


"The Gandhi Clan Is Back"


Vladimir Shreter and Valentina Kulyabina noted in reformist Vremya Novostey (5/14):  "The change in the Indian top leadership will have little impact on that country's foreign policy, at least not on its political dialogue with Pakistan.   The dialogue will surely continue, according to Mrs. Gandhi.  Information Minister Rashid Ahmed in Pakistan said yesterday that Islamabad expects normalization to continue following the arrival of a new government in India."


SPAIN:  "Surprise In India"


Centrist La Vanguardia editorialized (5/14):  "With the foreseeable influence that the left-wing representatives will have on the political action of the new government it is possible that privatizations will be delayed, but it is not probable that the Congress Party will abandon the reforms and economic opening-up that, after all, it favored more than a decade ago.  Anyway, for the international community and for the interest of maintaining peace, the most important is to continue going forward in the incipient process of good neighborhood that the Prime Minister Vajpayee and Pakistani president Musharraf started last year.  Nobody should forget that both of them are nuclear powers."


"The Importance Of Being Gandhi"


Indpendent El Mundo stated (5/14):  "Since in India it is the population of the rural areas and with least resources that go to the polls, it is not surprising that a campaign based on euphoria has not gained many supporters....  The victory of the Congress Party will recover India's secular character.  How its leader is going to succeed in making the country shine for all is a greater mystery."




ISRAEL:  "India At A Crossroads"


Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post observed (5/17):  "The rise of the subcontinent as a hi-tech powerhouse, the emergence of a broad middle class, the energetic deregulation, privatization, and de-monopolization that it has unleashed have made India's one of the world's most promising economies....  The Indian vote is clearly not a demand for less of all this. Rather, it is reminiscent of the restoration to power of reformed socialists that has been common in post-Communist Europe.  Like those cases, this one too is not about fewer people approving of capitalism, but about more people demanding access to its fruits....  [Also], under its outgoing government India has turned its back on its predecessors' anti-Western heritage and rhetoric and turned much of India's foreign policy around.  Part of this outlook was the creation of a strategic relationship with Israel, one whose rationale should be apparent to any student of India's situation in its region.  Hopefully, Sonia Gandhi will prove more of a student of reality than of her dynasty."


UAE:  "India Passes The Test"


The English-language expatriate-oriented Khaleej Times held (5/16):  "Indian democracy has passed its ultimate test....  A renewal of hope and resurrection of India’s identity as a nation that transcends ephemeral distinctions of creed, colour, race and birth.  That a white Italian woman, Catholic by faith, has been chosen by a nation of one billion people to rule a Hindu majority country is perhaps the greatest and most shining example of democracy yet....  By throwing out the BJP with its divisive political baggage, India’s faceless millions made it abundantly clear that they have little patience for petty non-issues like foreign origin and the quest for the origins of historical, obscure figures....  In the absence of a clear majority of its own, the Congress would be heavily dependent on allies like the Left parties. Although the Left has yet to decide about joining the government led by Sonia, in all likelihood they will jump on the bandwagon having missed the bus last time. The sensitive Sensex reacted sharply to the talk of the Left joining the government. The commies’ much-trumpeted opposition to reforms is touted to be the reason behind the unprecedented market crash. However, there is a completely positive side to the Congress lacking required numbers. In the absence of comfortable strength of its own, the new government would be much more careful and try to ensure consensus on major issues....  She would do well to respect advice and help from honest veterans like Manmohan Singh. The immediate task before the new government will be...the nation’s economic agenda. The Vajpayee government was shown the door by the people primarily because majority of the country did not ‘feel good’ about anything....  The government by Sonia will have to address the challenge on a war footing. Also, she has to win back the communities like Muslims alienated under the outgoing government."


"Shocking Defeat For Ruling Party"


The English-language expatriate-oriented Gulf News remarked (5/14):  "A shock victory, an unexpected rout....  India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP, has been comprehensively swept away in the general elections....  The question mark over why his party was unable to translate his huge popularity into votes remains.  Was it the Gandhi mystique, the power of the new troika when Congress leader Sonia Gandhi unleashed her charismatic son and daughter Rahul and Priyanka that unseated the BJP?....  Or was it no more than the age-old story--a government that after five years in power had become complacent, that had lost touch with the people.  Certainly, the perception among India's poor was that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance was pro-rich, rooted in the cities, bent on an economic reform programme skewed against them. The people's vote for change therefore has to be read in the right context. It was not a vote against reform, but against the kind of reform that leaves India's rural poor grappling with the effects of three years of consecutive drought.  The other significant development is the almost certain shift in economic policy as the Left considers joining a government at the centre after a gap of 15 years. The Left is anti-privatisation, sceptical of the benefits of the IT revolution. The answer they say is reform of the vast agrarian economy, ignored by government after government.  The Congress, which as the single largest party looks set to form a government, will also have to grapple with the thorny issue of making peace with Pakistan, a job that Vajpayee has left half done. India is clearly facing many challenges ahead as the baton passes from the right squarely back to the centre."




AUSTRALIA:  "Democracy At Work In India"


The liberal Sydney Morning Herald editorialized (5/17):  "The stunning victory of the Congress Party and its leader, Sonia Gandhi, is a sign of health in the world's largest democracy....  Vajpayee...expected voters to reward him for the new prosperity that has come from the embrace of open economic policies. He miscalculated badly.  India's new wealth is distributed as unevenly as its old riches ever were. Mrs Gandhi, campaigning tirelessly in rural India, had no difficulty persuading voters there that while India might be shining in the cities, it certainly wasn't shining in the countryside....  Mrs Gandhi's reassertion of secular values also counted in the Congress victory. The Bharatiya Janata Party, shadowed by its roots in Hindu extremists, has exploited anti-Muslim feeling....  Secularism is one of the pillars of Congress Party ideology....  Another pillar of Nehru's ideology, constitutional democracy, has been vindicated resoundingly by this election. Some will fear that a third pillar, Nehru's quasi-socialist economic policies, will now be revived....  Government by the Congress Party, its allies and the left alliance should be more stable than the unwieldy 25-party coalition Mr Vajpayee had to deal with.  The Congress Party has come a long way since Nehru's time, as have the parties in the newly powerful left alliance, which won 62 seats. They cannot allow a return to the economic controls that shackled the Indian economy until comparatively recently.  At the same time Sonia Gandhi and her advisers must ensure the benefits of the new economy reach more of the people who gave her their votes. If not, she will in due course meet the same fate as Mr Vajpayee and his party."


CHINA:  “Indian Diplomacy Will Become Even More Steady”


Sun Shihai commented in official Communist Party-run international Global Times (Huanqiu Shibao) (5/15):  “The Indian ruling party and opposition party are generally consistent in their diplomatic policies.  In recent years, some of the BJP’s diplomatic policies were earlier put forth by Congress.  The BJP just walked faster and more boldly....  Congress gradually wiped away its ideological color with the end of the Cold War.  It can be trusted to be even more steady in conducting its diplomacy and will have stable relations with China.  After Congress takes office, its U.S., Russia, China and Pakistan policies will continue to be practical, and it will develop relations with all big countries based on its national interests.  In politics, India’s ‘eastward shift’ policy toward East Asia will not change.  Along with China’s increasing influence in the region, the two countries’ interests will overlap but competition between the two will not lead to conflict. Regarding security, competition between the two countries is orderly and healthy.  China and India, as two great countries, must be able to practice both competitive and cooperative relations.”


CHINA (HONG KONG AND MACAU SARS):  "Worries Behind Prosperity"


Independent Chinese-language Hong Kong Economic Journal observed (5/19):  "The dramatic result of the Indian election is due to the miscalculations of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and not because the Congress party enjoys the ardent support of the people.  The BJP thought it could not be defeated because the economy had improved.  So, it moved the election up by half a year.  It did not anticipate that people had changed their minds.  Many experts say that the cause of BJP's defeat was that the government's policies only took care of a minority of people, particularly the middle class.  The poor, especially the farmers, did not share in the more prosperous economy....  However, the dissatisfaction of the farmers is not the key to the defeat of the BJP....  In India, job growth is far behind economic growth.  'Jobless recovery' is not a problem faced only by western countries.  The more hope the Indian people put into the rapid surge of economic growth, the more people will feel disappointed.  They finally show their dissatisfaction by their votes, and the election result has surprised many people.  The BJP has to step down even though the economy is prosperous.  This should serve as a warning for democratic countries like the U.S. or a one-party country like China."


"The Difficult Challenges Ahead In India"


The independent English-language South China Morning Post said (5/15):  "The other India is largely rural, still poor and still lacking in the basics of clean water, electricity, health care and jobs.  It was this other side of India that, in five days of polling over the past month, voted out Mr. Vajpayee and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and brought in a left-leaning coalition led by Sonia Gandhi and her Congress party.  The questions now concern who this new ruling coalition will elevate to head the government, and whether, as some in the business community fear, there will be an about-face on the privatization and other economic reforms that gained pace under the BJP.  All the signs point to a fourth Nehru-Gandhi premiership, though there is sure to be some haggling within the party and with its allies before it is confirmed....  The challenge for Congress will be to deliver on promises to spread the wealth without alienating the investors who have driven the past decade of growth."


"Indian Congress Party Will Not Bring Many Changes To Existing Policies"


Pro-PRC Chinese-language Macau Daily News remarked (5/15):  "People believe that Sonia (Gandhi) will continue the economic reforms started by Mr. Vajpayee.  On the other hand, she will also learn a lesson from her predecessor and pay more heed to the poor....  For its relations with the U.S., the Congress party adopted the principle of 'non-alliance' and tried its best not to be pro-U.S. or pro-Soviet Union.  The Congress party still does not trust the U.S.  When the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power, it insisted on conducting nuclear weapons tests--but it also wanted to evade international sanctions.  The party therefore adopted a new policy of rapprochement with the U.S.  To counter terrorism, the U.S. has in recent years tried to draw in Pakistan.  Has India felt worried or even dissatisfied?  The Congress party will have some impact on improving U.S.-Indian relations, which are expected to remain friendly and stable....  Although the ruling party and the opposition are changing seats, this will not bring about much change in India's domestic and foreign policies."


JAPAN:  "Strain Of High-Charged Economic Growth Triggers Change Of Government"


Liberal Asahi editorialized (5/17):  "The results of the general election in India surprised the world, as pre-election surveys all showed that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's ruling party would secure a comfortable victory. It appears that millions of rural people who have not been able to enjoy the fruits of recent economic growth said 'no' to the ruling National Democratic Alliance....  The new government to be led by Sonia Gandhi will be required to reconcile religious rivalries and map out economic policies that address the concerns of the poor, who have been left behind in the ongoing economic boom.  Most developing nations have adopted an 'autocratic' political management to pursue economic growth.  But, India's election results showed that the country is stepping forward to growth through a democratic process.  This marks a sharp contrast to Asia's other giant, China. Other developing nations should learn the Indian way."  


INDONESIA:  “Outcomes Of Indian Election A Big Surprise”


Leading independent Kompas stated (5/15):  "The results of the Indian elections were a major surprise.  Unexpectedly, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Premier Atal Behari Vapjpayee, who was popular and managed to advance the economy, was defeated by the Congress Party under Sonia Gandhi’s leadership....  Regardless of the economic issues, the victory of the Congress Party demonstrated the supremacy of democratic life in India.  Every citizen has equal rights in every aspect of life regardless of his/her background.  Her background as a naturalized citizen of Italian origin did not by any means impede Sonia Gandhi to proceed to the top of power.”


“Congress Party In India Back In Power”


Independent Suara Pembaruan observed (5/15):  "Observers apparently emphasized economic factors and the GNP as political parameters.  They missed the fact that the majority of the population is poor living on only one dollar a day.  Sonia and the Congress have from the beginning raised the poverty issue.  They raised two main issues, i.e. that the economic growth was a deceitful factor because it did not touch the poor farmers and poor families in the villages numbering 700 million people, and the corruption issue....  The Congress criticized the PBJ for being incapable of stop corruption among the elite and the bureaucracy....  The other blunder was that the Hindu-nationalist BJP kept cornering Sonia as a Catholic expatriate woman who does not deserves the Premier position.  Despising ethnic background in the first and largest democracy country in Asia was naive and backfired.”   


THAILAND:  “The Message In India’s Election”


The lead editorial in independent, English-language The Nation read (5/17):  “For the first time in its history, the Congress that has ruled India for 45 of its 57 years since independence will find itself doing the tight-rope walk of running a coalition government....  But the BJP government's ouster also shows some positive developments in Indian democracy.  The voters have begun to realize the power of the ballot.  There has been a trend in recent years to hold parties accountable....  This is a healthy departure from the pattern of the first four decades post-independence when the masses showed a marked disinclination to try any other party than the Congress.  While the impatience of the voter may be unsettling for policy makers, it will serve to keep ruling governments on their toes. The message of the voters is clear: Do or go."     


“India Loves Her ‘Foreign Daughter’”


Thirasant Mann opined in moderately-conservative, English-language Bangkok Post (5/15):  “Now that it has soundly defeated communal forces, the promise of a secular government must be kept.  And while pressing ahead with India’s economic reforms, the new government must strive to meet the demands of the disaffected rural poor, who have in no uncertain terms shown their anger at missing out on the benefits of India’s economic boom.  Above all, the people want Sonia Gandhi to lead.  The political parties must accept this reality.”




SOUTH AFRICA:  “Fluid India”


The liberal Mercury commented (5/19):  "The overwhelming message of the Indian election is that democracy works.  The Bharatiya Janata Party might have brought India an economic growth rate of 8 percent plus, but it failed to get that to trickle down sufficiently to the bulk of the population which...was being marginalized.  In a democracy, a government pays a price for such a perceived failure.  The outcome is a re-affirmation in the developing world of the resilience and value of democratic institutions....  Difficulties lie ahead....  But these problems are less than the deadening effect of endless rule by a single party.  The miracle is that democracy does work in a country of a billion people.”


“Mind The Gap”


Liberal This Day asserted (5/19):  "When governments believe their own election propaganda, it’s bad news for the country.  But if the electorate don’t buy the hype, it’s curtains for the government, as India’s defeated BJP coalition has just discovered....  For those in the gutter, India’s shine is invisible.  The vast rural population would not have benefited from the BJP’s reforms.  The rural poor turned on the government and trampled on it in the election....  The politicians and the pundits have had a rude awakening.  Democracies throughout the world should also take note.  Elections are decided by the electorate, not the spin doctors.”




CANADA:  "India Decides To Follow A New Path"


The liberal Toronto Star asserted (5/17):  "That gloriously unpredictable entity--the Indian electorate--has astonished spectators and participants alike by executing a perfect somersault and neatly reversing the foregone conclusion of exit polls and media punditry.  In the event, it was a near-unanimous verdict for the politics of inclusiveness--economic, social and cultural--and against the rhetoric of divisiveness and xenophobia.  Indeed, it was the BJP's relentless 'feel-good' hype and its anti-Sonia videshi invective that ultimately pushed the other 'un-shining' India towards the perceived underdog--the written-off Congress Party....  Sonia emerged as the wronged widow offering herself and her children as champions of the marginalized and oppressed....  But it was not all soft sentiment. Hard factors were at play too.  Rural drought and unemployment undid the fortunes of many smug incumbents basking in the surreal sun of 'India Shining.'  In other words, the track record of the incumbent governments was also an important factor.  To the extent Sonia Gandhi--reviled and abused by her opponents and dismissed as a political neophyte by the all-knowing pundits in the media--grasped this message, the credit for the unlikely victory should certainly go to her.  Persistent questions about Sonia's foreign antecedents should be silenced once and for all by the huge groundswell of support for her party....  In the Indian case, in keeping with the new demographics, the political shift should also be towards youthfulness and energy. Let the new political dispensation, then, reflect this overwhelming mandate--in favour of social and cultural pluralism, economic inclusiveness and demographic transition."


"India's Massive Verdict On The Vajpayee Coalition"


The leading Globe and Mail declared (5/14):  "India's latest election has shown once again that for all its problems, the world's biggest democracy is vibrantly alive and well and reflecting not only the wishes of its vast electorate but the country's growing technological prowess.  India's sheer ability to carry off a marathon nationwide vote with relatively few missteps is worthy of praise....  The true test of a healthy democracy is the peaceful handover of power by the governing party when the vote does not go its way. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee wasted no time in resigning yesterday after his governing coalition suffered a stunning defeat....  The opposition Indian National Congress surprised the pundits by emerging with the most seats, and is expected to team up with a handful of smaller leftist parties to form the next government. That would vault its leader, Sonia Gandhi, into the prime minister's office....  Mrs. Gandhi's 34-year-old son, Rahul Gandhi, also won a seat in Parliament.  The Congress party succeeded by tapping into the growing anger of millions of poor people, particularly in rural areas, who have seen none of the benefits of the current boom that has transformed the Indian economy into one of the world's fastest-growing. They rejected Mr. Vajpayee's economic campaign, run under the slogan 'India Shining,' and repudiated his religion-based politics in favour of the Congress party's traditional secularism." 


"India's Democracy Votes For Change"


The liberal Toronto Star editorialized (5/14):  "Hundreds of millions of Indian voters have just reminded the world that the most populous democracy on Earth is also one of the most vibrant.  They have shaken the political establishment to its roots and made fools of pollsters and pundits by sending Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and his Hindu nationalist-led coalition packing. The voters rebuffed his empty "India shining" rhetoric and served sharp notice that more of the nation's burgeoning wealth must be channelled to the grassroots....  This is a victory not just for Sonia Gandhi and the secular Congress party of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira and Rajiv Gandhi which led India for nearly a half century from 1947, but also for the principle that policy makers are accountable to all the people, not just to the affluent.  Under Vajpayee since 1998, India's healthy 8 per cent growth and cheap loan programs have bettered middle-class urban lives, but have left behind 300 million rural poor....  Congress, which began opening up the closed economy in 1991, promises to accelerate growth to make India a global power....  Vajpayee's resignation may usher in some political and economic uncertainty as Congress manoeuvres to form a stable government with the support of left-leaning allies in the splintered parliament.  But Congress can now distance India from Vajpayee's problematic Hindu nationalism....  Congress' rehabilitation also offers a chance to improve up-and-down relations with Pakistan, after Indian nuclear tests in 1998 triggered an arms race and frictions over Kashmir brought them close to war. Wisely, Congress vows to pursue Vajpayee's recent, hugely popular peace bid."


ARGENTINA:  "One Of The Gandhis, On Track To Rule The World's Largest Democracy"


Leading Clarin maintained (5/14):  "India is getting ready for a major political change. Against all odds, opposition Congress Party, headed by a woman born in Italy and belonging to the Gandhi political dynasty, led an upset win in the legislative elections. Prime Minister Vajpayee conceded defeat and resigned. Now, Sonia Gandhi is one step away from becoming the chief of the government of the world's largest democracy with the mass support of India's poor and marginal sectors.  The surprising result reflects the discontent of millions who were deprived of India's notable economic growth. And it's a serious blow for Vajpayee's right-wing Hindu nationalism, given that the Prime Minister took his victory for granted....  None of the previous opinion polls had forecasted such a scenario....  All in all, this victory represents an unexpected resurrection of Nehru and Indira Gandhi's 'Congress Party', which ruled India for 45 years."


"The Dark Sides Of Booming Economies"


Ines Capdevila asserted in daily-of-record La Nacion (5/14):  "They are the global stars of growth; the envy of a large number of Latin American nations and their failed economies; markets in which all First World countries want to sell their goods; Asia's military and political powers. And they're the two nations that are struggling--today--with the dangers of growing too vigorously, at enormous speed and with too many poor and marginal people.  In India, Vajpayee's official Party was surprised by the dark side of an economic growth that for the past six years successfully generated thousands and thousands of new rich people among the middle class sector: and this dark side is the poor sectors that are always there....  Sonia Gandhi, her Congress Party and the 250 million poor reminded Vajpayee that 'all that glitters is not gold.'  If the Indian economy grew at an average 6 percent in the past six years and mesmerized the West with its progress, poverty never dropped below 25% and those that suffer it--outraged because the economic bonanza the official Party usually bragged about never reached them--suddenly overshadowed the Prime Minister's future."



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