Time to bury the hatchet
Three countries in South Asia are in the middle of political maelstroms for reasons unique to their polity. The Indian crisis is rooted in an unending welter of scams, Pakistan’s caught in a maze of sleaze, governance deficit and institutional breakdown and Nepal’s bane is its inability to give itself a republican constitution.
The one common strand in these case studies is the deep distrust the political players harbor for each other. In India it’s the UPA versus the NDA and the Left, in Pakistan the ruling PPP’s alienation from Nawaz Sharif and a host of regional entities and in Nepal the Maoists troubled ties with the Nepali Congress, Madheshi splinter groups and factions of the Communist Party of Nepal.
The discord between political forces has reinforced the Pakistan Army’s veto in the country’s affairs despite its battered profile in the aftermath of the US raid on Osama Bin Laden’s Abbottabad hideout and the terrorist strike at a naval base in Karachi.
The pitiable state of the only two institutions that country can boast of — the fauj and the PPP — is fraught with myriad consequences for Pakistan in particular and the region in general. It could mean a Colonels’ Coup against the army leadership, an army coup against the elected government and in the worst case, even a fundamentalist takeover of the country where the government’s writ does not run in vast swathes held by feudal lords, tribal chieftains and terror contingents.
The Indian logjam could be surmountable if only the political class learnt to work together to redeem their plummeting stock. The repeated Opposition assault on the government has a two pronged objective: to expose the regime for what it’s worth while forcing an administrative breakdown akin to lame duck dispensations.
The public forces that are on the rise as a consequence can be placated. But for that, the UPA will have to provide a semblance of rule that’s at once honest, sensitive and creative. Sonia Gandhi’s unexpected ailment has added to the prevailing uncertainty. But when the going gets tough, shouldn’t the tough get going?
It’s time therefore for some tough decisions by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. At stake isn’t just the survival of his government. It’s about India that we are worried—- be it the economy, foreign policy, internal security and the defense of our borders.
The US’s downgraded credit rating has revived the worst nightmares of its 2008 economic downturn that saw people mandating Singh a second term (in 2009) to save India’s economy. An encore by him today will require teaming up with the Opposition rather than seeing them defeated at the hustings. If he reaches out to the BJP and the Left in right earnest, they are expected to reciprocate— in national interest— to bring the corrupt to book, repatriate ill-gotten wealth stashed abroad and put in place laws and institutions make transparency and accountability a core national value.
The prescription for India is applicable as much for Pakistan and Nepal. Only the politics of consensus can save South Asia.