Manipal, India — Although most international commentators spoke of the Congress Paraty's victory in the 2004 Indian elections as the "revolt of the poor," in reality it was the result of defeating their BJP-led rivals in every major city in India bar Bangalore. Rather than a vote against economic reform, it was the slowing down of reforms during the last two years of the BJP-led regime that made the urban middle class -- now 220 million strong -- either abstain or vote against the BJP.
Unfortunately, the present "owner" of the ruling Congress Party, Italian-born Sonia Maino Gandhi, joined the usual pundits in seeing her victory as a vote against reform, and has reined in the economist Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has instead concentrated on two fields where he is an obvious novice: foreign policy and national security. His experiments in appeasement have been based on a liberal belief that jihadis are just misled idealists who can, with tenderness, be corrected.
Simultaneously, just as the United States and the European Union are beginning to accept New Delhi's traditional stand that Pakistan under its generals is part of the problem and not a solution, Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi have been cozying up to Pervez Musharraf. They have publicly taken at face value his claim that the jihadis in Pakistan operate independently of the army, even though many routinely use military communications equipment and are trained by those in uniform. It is small wonder that the nearly three years of United Progressive Alliance government have witnessed a sharp increase in Maoist insurgency and the revival of the Kashmir jihad. The army has become dispirited by consistent pressure from the Congress-led government to go soft on the jihadis and surrender Kashmir's Siachen heights. Also, India's nuclear scientists were dismayed at the conditions set out under the Henry J. Hyde Act passed by the U.S. Congress last year, which would in effect end India's three-decade quest for a nuclear deterrent against China.