SINGAPORE – It is unwise to underestimate the near-metaphysical significance of the recent Indian elections. The Indian electorate decisively pushed world history in the right direction with the re-election of the Manmohan Singh-Sonia Gandhi partnership. They now have the mandate and power to press for greater economic reform and liberalization. The incipient tiger in the Indian economy will be released. The simultaneous rise of China and India will strengthen the forces of modernization and moderation globally. At a time of global crisis, the world should celebrate this new burst of energy.
Virtually no one predicted this spectacular outcome. Most observers underestimated the Indian electorate, which understood the many benefits of the Singh-Gandhi partnership. First, their Congress government revived the moderate secular traditions of Jawaharlal Nehru and brought India back firmly to the political center, wresting control from communal and ideological extremists.
Second, the electorate grasped the importance of re-electing a modest but wise and determined leader who understood the direction India needed to take. Singh will open up India’s economy even more than he has so far. As he once said, “Although India has a large domestic market, our experience with earlier relatively insular policies, as also the global experience in this regard, clearly bring out the growth potential of trade and economic cooperation with the global economy.”
Finally, Singh will continue to re-engage India’s Asian neighbors and push for greater regional cooperation. As far back as 1995 he said, “It is this vision, of a resurgent India taking her rightful place as an economic powerhouse in Asia, which has inspired our economic policies.” Just as China has signed a free-trade agreement with ASEAN, India will seek to do so. A process of competitive economic liberalization will sweep across Asia, further guaranteeing the region’s continued resurgence.