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India - GOVERNMENT
INDIAN POLITICS ENTERED a new era at the beginning of the 1990s. The period of political domination by the Congress (I) branch of the Indian National Congress (see Glossary) came to an end with the party's defeat in the 1989 general elections, and India began a period of intense multiparty political competition. Even though the Congress (I) regained power as a minority government in 1991, its grasp on power was precarious. The Nehruvian socialist ideology that the party had used to fashion India's political agenda had lost much of its popular appeal. The Congress (I) political leadership had lost the mantle of moral integrity inherited from the Indian National Congress's role in the independence movement, and it was widely viewed as corrupt. Support among key social bases of the Congress (I) political coalition was seriously eroding. The main alternative to the Congress (I), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP--Indian People's Party), embarked on a campaign to reorganize the Indian electorate in an effort to create a Hindu nationalist majority coalition. Simultaneously, such parties as the Janata Dal (People's Party), the Samajwadi Party (Socialist Party), and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP--Party of Society's Majority) attempted to ascend to power on the crest of an alliance of interests uniting Dalits (see Glossary), Backward Classes (see Glossary), Scheduled Tribes (see Glossary), and religious minorities.
The structure of India's federal--or union--system not only creates a strong central government but also has facilitated the concentration of power in the central government in general and in particular in the Office of the Prime Minister. This centralization of power has been a source of considerable controversy and political tension. It is likely to further exacerbate political conflict because of the increasing pluralism of the country's party system and the growing diversity of interest-group representation.
Once viewed as a source of solutions for the country's economic and social problems, the Indian polity is increasingly seen by political observers as the problem. When populist political appeals stir the passions of the masses, government institutions appear less capable than ever before of accommodating conflicts in a society mobilized along competing ethnic and religious lines. In addition, law and order have become increasingly tenuous because of the growing inability of the police to curb criminal activities and quell communal disturbances. Indeed, many observers bemoan the "criminalization" of Indian politics at a time when politicians routinely hire "muscle power" to improve their electoral prospects, and criminals themselves successfully run for public office. These circumstances have led some observers to conclude that India has entered into a growing crisis of governability.
Few analysts would deny the gravity of India's problems, but some contend they have occurred amidst the maturation of civil society and the emergence of new, more democratic political practices. Backward Classes, the Dalits, and tribal peoples increasingly have refused to rest content with the patronage and populism characteristic of the "Congress system." Mobilization of these groups has provided a viable base for the political opposition and unraveled the fabric of the Congress. Since the late 1970s, there has been a proliferation of nongovernmental organizations. These groups made new demands on the political system that required a substantial redistribution of political power, economic resources, and social status.
Whether or not developments in Indian politics exacerbate the continuing problems or give birth to greater democracy broadly hinges on efforts to resolve three key issues. How will India's political system, now more than ever based on egalitarian democratic values, accommodate the changes taking place in its hierarchical social system? How will the state balance the need to recognize the interests of the country's remarkably heterogeneous society with the imperatives of national unity? And, in the face of the declining legitimacy of the Indian state and the continuing development of civil society, can the Indian state regenerate its legitimacy, and if it is to do so, how should it redefine the boundaries between state and society? India has confronted these issues throughout much of its history. These issues, with their intrinsic tensions, will continue to serve as sources of change in the continuing evolution of the Indian polity.
The constitution of India draws extensively from Western legal traditions in its outline of the principles of liberal democracy. It is distinguished from many Western constitutions, however, in its elaboration of principles reflecting the aspirations to end the inequities of traditional social relations and enhance the social welfare of the population. According to constitutional scholar Granville Austin, probably no other nation's constitution "has provided so much impetus toward changing and rebuilding society for the common good." Since its enactment, the constitution has fostered a steady concentration of power in the central government--especially the Office of the Prime Minister. This centralization has occurred in the face of the increasing assertiveness of an array of ethnic and caste groups across Indian society. Increasingly, the government has responded to the resulting tensions by resorting to the formidable array of authoritarian powers provided by the constitution. Together with the public's perception of pervasive corruption among India's politicians, the state's centralization of authority and increasing resort to coercive power have eroded its legitimacy. However, a new assertiveness shown by the Supreme Court and the Election Commission suggests that the remaining checks and balances among the country's political institutions continue to support the resilience of Indian democracy.
Adopted after some two and one-half years of deliberation by the Constituent Assembly that also acted as India's first legislature, the constitution was put into effect on January 26, 1950. Bhimrao Ramji (B.R.) Ambedkar, a Dalit who earned a law degree from Columbia University, chaired the drafting committee of the constitution and shepherded it through Constituent Assembly debates. Supporters of independent India's founding father, Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi, backed measures that would form a decentralized polity with strong local administration--known as panchayat (pl., panchayats --see Glossary)--in a system known as panchayati raj , that is rule by panchayats . However, the support of more modernist leaders, such as Jawaharlal Nehru, ultimately led to a parliamentary government and a federal system with a strong central government (see Nehru's Legacy, ch. 1). Following a British parliamentary pattern, the constitution embodies the Fundamental Rights, which are similar to the United States Bill of Rights, and a Supreme Court similar to that of the United States. It creates a "sovereign democratic republic" called India, or Bharat (after the legendary king of the Mahabharata ), which "shall be a Union of States." India is a federal system in which residual powers of legislation remain with the central government, similar to that in Canada. The constitution provides detailed lists dividing up powers between central and state governments as in Australia, and it elaborates a set of Directive Principles of State Policy as does the Irish constitution.
The 395 articles and ten appendixes, known as schedules, in the constitution make it one of the longest and most detailed in the world. Schedules can be added to the constitution by amendment. The ten schedules in force cover the designations of the states and union territories; the emoluments for high-level officials; forms of oaths; allocation of the number of seats in the Rajya Sabha (Council of States--the upper house of Parliament) per state or territory; provisions for the administration and control of Scheduled Areas (see Glossary) and Scheduled Tribes (see Glossary); provisions for the administration of tribal areas in Assam; the union (meaning central government), state, and concurrent (dual) lists of responsibilities; the official languages; land and tenure reforms; and the association of Sikkim with India.
The Indian constitution is also one of the most frequently amended constitutions in the world. The first amendment came only a year after the adoption of the constitution and instituted numerous minor changes. Many more amendments followed, and through June 1995 the constitution had been amended seventy-seven times, a rate of almost two amendments per year since 1950. Most of the constitution can be amended after a quorum of more than half of the members of each house in Parliament passes an amendment with a two-thirds majority vote. Articles pertaining to the distribution of legislative authority between the central and state governments must also be approved by 50 percent of the state legislatures.Fundamental Rights
The Fundamental Rights embodied in the constitution are guaranteed to all citizens. These civil liberties take precedence over any other law of the land. They include individual rights common to most liberal democracies, such as equality before the law, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of association and peaceful assembly, freedom of religion, and the right to constitutional remedies for the protection of civil rights such as habeas corpus. In addition, the Fundamental Rights are aimed at overturning the inequities of past social practices. They abolish "untouchability"; prohibit discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth; and forbid traffic in human beings and forced labor. They go beyond conventional civil liberties in protecting cultural and educational rights of minorities by ensuring that minorities may preserve their distinctive languages and establish and administer their own education institutions. Originally, the right to property was also included in the Fundamental Rights; however, the Forty-fourth Amendment, passed in 1978, revised the status of property rights by stating that "No person shall be deprived of his property save by authority of law." Freedom of speech and expression, generally interpreted to include freedom of the press, can be limited "in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence" (see The Media, this ch.).Directive Principles of State Policy
An important feature of the constitution is the Directive Principles of State Policy. Although the Directive Principles are asserted to be "fundamental in the governance of the country," they are not legally enforceable. Instead, they are guidelines for creating a social order characterized by social, economic, and political justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity as enunciated in the constitution's preamble.
In some cases, the Directive Principles articulate goals that, however admirable, remain vague platitudes, such as the injunctions that the state "shall direct its policy towards securing . . . that the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed to subserve the common good" and "endeavor to promote international peace and security." In other areas, the Directive Principles provide more specific policy objectives. They exhort the state to secure work at a living wage for all citizens; take steps to encourage worker participation in industrial management; provide for just and humane conditions of work, including maternity leave; and promote the educational and economic interests of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and other disadvantaged sectors of society. The Directive Principles also charge the state with the responsibility for providing free and compulsory education for children up to age fourteen (see Administration and Funding, ch. 2).
The Directive Principles also urge the nation to develop a uniform civil code and offer free legal aid to all citizens. They urge measures to maintain the separation of the judiciary from the executive and direct the government to organize village panchayats to function as units of self-government. This latter objective was advanced by the Seventy-third Amendment and the Seventy-fourth Amendment in December 1992. The Directive Principles also order that India should endeavor to protect and improve the environment and protect monuments and places of historical interest.
The Forty-second Amendment, which came into force in January 1977, attempted to raise the status of the Directive Principles by stating that no law implementing any of the Directive Principles could be declared unconstitutional on the grounds that it violated any of the Fundamental Rights. The amendment simultaneously stated that laws prohibiting "antinational activities" or the formation of "antinational associations" could not be invalidated because they infringed on any of the Fundamental Rights. It added a new section to the constitution on "Fundamental Duties" that enjoined citizens "to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood among all the people of India, transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities." However, the amendment reflected a new emphasis in governing circles on order and discipline to counteract what some leaders had come to perceive as the excessively freewheeling style of Indian democracy. After the March 1977 general election ended the control of the Congress (Congress (R) from 1969) over the executive and legislature for the first time since independence in 1947, the new Janata-dominated Parliament passed the Forty-third Amendment (1977) and Forty-fourth Amendment (1978). These amendments revoked the Forty-second Amendment's provision that Directive Principles take precedence over Fundamental Rights and also curbed Parliament's power to legislate against "antinational activities" (see The Legislature, this ch.).Group Rights
In addition to stressing the right of individuals as citizens, Part XVI of the constitution endeavors to promote social justice by elaborating a series of affirmative-action measures for disadvantaged groups. These "Special Provisions Relating to Certain Classes" include the reservation of seats in the Lok Sabha (House of the People) and in state legislative bodies for members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The number of seats set aside for them is proportional to their share of the national and respective state populations. Part XVI also reserves some government appointments for these disadvantaged groups insofar as they do not interfere with administrative efficiency. The section stipulates that a special officer for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes be appointed by the president to "investigate all matters relating to the safeguards provided" for them, as well as periodic commissions to investigate the conditions of the Backward Classes. The president, in consultation with state governors, designates those groups that meet the criteria of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Similar protections exist for the small Anglo-Indian community.
The framers of the constitution provided that the special provisions would cease twenty years after the promulgation of the constitution, anticipating that the progress of the disadvantaged groups during that time would have removed significant disparities between them and other groups in society. However, in 1969 the Twenty-third Amendment extended the affirmative-action measures until 1980. The Forty-fifth Amendment of 1980 extended them again until 1990, and in 1989 the Sixty-second Amendment extended the provisions until 2000. The Seventy-seventh Amendment of 1995 further strengthened the states' authority to reserve government-service positions for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe members.Emergency Provisions and Authoritarian Powers
Part XVIII of the constitution permits the state to suspend various civil liberties and the application of certain federal principles during presidentially proclaimed states of emergency. The constitution provides for three categories of emergencies: a threat by "war or external aggression" or by "internal disturbances"; a "failure of constitutional machinery" in the country or in a state; and a threat to the financial security or credit of the nation or a part of it. Under the first two categories, the Fundamental Rights, with the exception of protection of life and personal liberty, may be suspended, and federal principles may be rendered inoperative. A proclamation of a state of emergency lapses after two months if not approved by both houses of Parliament. The president can issue a proclamation dissolving a state government if it can be determined, upon receipt of a report from a governor, that circumstances prevent the government of that state from maintaining law and order according to the constitution. This action establishes what is known as President's Rule because under such a proclamation the president can assume any or all functions of the state government; transfer the powers of the state legislature to Parliament; or take other measures necessary to achieve the objectives of the proclamation, including suspension, in whole or in part, of the constitution. A proclamation of President's Rule cannot interfere with the exercise of authority by the state's high court. Once approved, President's Rule normally lasts for six months, but it may be extended up to one year if Parliament approves. In exceptional cases, such as the violent revolt in Jammu and Kashmir during the early and mid-1990s, President's Rule has lasted for a period of more than five years.
President's Rule has been imposed frequently, and its use is often politically motivated. During the terms of prime ministers Nehru and Lal Bahadur Shastri, from 1947 to 1966, it was imposed ten times. Under Indira Gandhi's two tenures as prime minister (1966-77 and 1980-84), President's Rule was imposed forty-one times. Despite Mrs. Gandhi's frequent use of President's Rule, she was in office longer (187 months) than any other prime minister except Nehru (201 months). Other prime ministers also have been frequent users: Morarji Desai (eleven times in twenty-eight months), Chaudhury Charan Singh (five times in less than six months), Rajiv Gandhi (eight times in sixty-one months), Vishwanath Pratap (V.P.) Singh (two times in eleven months), Chandra Shekhar (four times in seven months), and P.V. Narasimha Rao (nine times in his first forty-two months in office).
State of emergency proclamations have been issued three times since independence. The first was in 1962 during the border war with China. Another was declared in 1971 when India went to war against Pakistan over the independence of East Pakistan, which became Bangladesh. In 1975 the third Emergency was imposed in response to an alledged threat by "internal disturbances" stemming from the political opposition to Indira Gandhi (see The Rise of Indira Gandhi, ch. 1; National-Level Agencies, ch. 10).
The Indian state has authoritarian powers in addition to the constitution's provisions for proclamations of Emergency Rule and President's Rule. The Preventive Detention Act was passed in 1950 and remained in force until 1970. Shortly after the start of the Emergency in 1962, the government enacted the Defence of India Act. This legislation created the Defence of India Rules, which allow for preventive detention of individuals who have acted or who are likely to act in a manner detrimental to public order and national security. The Defence of India Rules were reimposed during the 1971 war with Pakistan; they remained in effect after the end of the war and were invoked for a variety of uses not intended by their framers, such as the arrests made during a nationwide railroad strike in 1974.
The Maintenance of Internal Security Act promulgated in 1971 also provides for preventive detention. During the 1975-77 Emergency, the act was amended to allow the government to arrest individuals without specifying charges. The government arrested tens of thousands of opposition politicians under the Defence of India Rules and the Maintenance of Internal Security Act, including most of the leaders of the future Janata Party government (see Political Parties, this ch.). Shortly after the Janata government came to power in 1977, Parliament passed the Forty-fourth Amendment, which revised the domestic circumstances cited in Article 352 as justifying an emergency from "internal disturbance" to "armed rebellion." During Janata rule, Parliament also repealed the Defence of India Rules and the Maintenance of Internal Security Act. However, after the Congress (I) returned to power in 1980, Parliament passed the National Security Act authorizing security forces to arrest individuals without warrant for suspicion of action that subverts national security, public order, and essential economic services. The Essential Services Maintenance Act of 1981 permits the government to prohibit strikes and lockouts in sixteen economic sectors providing critical goods and services. The Fifty-ninth Amendment, passed in 1988, restored "internal disturbance" in place of "armed rebellion" as just cause for the proclamation of an emergency.
The Sikh militant movement that spread through Punjab during the 1980s spurred additional authoritarian legislation (see Insurgent Movements and External Subversion, ch. 10). In 1984 Parliament passed the National Security Amendment Act enabling government security forces to detain prisoners for up to one year. The 1984 Terrorist Affected Areas (Special Courts) Ordinance provided security forces in Punjab with unprecedented powers of detention, and it authorized secret tribunals to try suspected terrorists. The 1985 Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act imposed the death penalty for anyone convicted of terrorist actions that led to the death of others. It empowered authorities to tap telephones, censor mail, and conduct raids when individuals are alleged to pose a threat to the unity and sovereignty of the nation. The legislation renewing the act in 1987 provided for in camera trials, which may be presided over by any central government officer, and reversed the legal presumption of innocence if the government produces specific evidence linking a suspect to a terrorist act. In March 1988, the Fifty-ninth Amendment increased the period that an emergency can be in effect without legislative approval from six months to three years, and it eliminated the assurance of due process and protection of life and liberty with regard to Punjab found in articles 20 and 21. These rights were restored in 1989 by the Sixty-third Amendment.
By June 30, 1994, more than 76,000 persons throughout India had been arrested under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act. The act became widely unpopular, and the Rao government allowed the law to lapse in May 1995.The Structure of Government
The union government, as India's central government is known, is divided into three distinct but interrelated branches: legislative, executive, and judicial (see fig. 14). As in the British parliamentary model, the leadership of the executive is drawn from and responsible to the legislative body. Although Article 50 stipulates the separation of the judiciary from the executive, the executive controls judicial appointments and many of the conditions of work. In addition, one of the more dramatic institutional battles in the Indian polity has been the struggle between elements wanting to assert legislative power to amend the constitution and those favoring the judiciary's efforts to preserve the constitution's basic structure.The Legislature
Parliament consists of a bicameral legislature, the Lok Sabha (House of the People--the lower house) and the Rajya Sabha (Council of States--the upper house). Parliament's principal function is to pass laws on those matters that the constitution specifies to be within its jurisdiction. Among its constitutional powers are approval and removal of members of the Council of Ministers, amendment of the constitution, approval of central government finances, and delimitation of state and union territory boundaries (see State Governments and Union Territories, this ch.).
The president has a specific authority with respect to the function of the legislative branch (see The Executive, this ch.). The president is authorized to convene Parliament and must give his assent to all parliamentary bills before they become law. The president is empowered to summon Parliament to meet, to address either house or both houses together, and to require attendance of all of its members. The president also may send messages to either house with respect to a pending bill or any other matter. The president addresses the first session of Parliament each year and must give assent to all provisions in bills passed.Lok Sabha
The Lok Sabha in 1995 constitutionally had 545 seats. For a variety of reasons, elections are sometimes not held in all constitutiencies, leaving some seats vacant and giving the appearance of fewer seats in the lower house. A member must be at least twenty-five years of age. Two members are nominated by the president as representatives of the Anglo-Indian community, and the rest are popularly elected. Elections are held on a one-stage, "first-past-the-post" system, similar to that in the United States. As in the United States, candidates from larger parties are favored because each constituency elects only the candidate winning the most votes. In the context of multiple-candidate elections, most members of Parliament are elected with pluralities of the vote that amount to less than a majority. As a result, political parties can gain commanding positions in the Parliament without winning the support of a majority of the electorate. For instance, Congress has dominated Indian politics without ever winning a majority of votes in parliamentary elections. The best-ever Congress performance in parliamentary elections was in 1984 when Congress (I) won 48 percent of the vote and garnered 76 percent of the parliamentary seats. In the 1991 elections, Congress (I) won 37.6 percent of the vote and 42 percent of the seats.
The usual Lok Sabha term is five years. However, the president may dissolve the house and call for new elections should the government lose its majority in Parliament. Elections must be held within six months after Parliament is dissolved. The prime minister can choose electorally advantageous times to recommend the dissolution of Parliament to the president in an effort to maximize support in the next Parliament. The term of Parliament can be extended in yearly increments if an emergency has been proclaimed. This situation occurred in 1976 when Parliament was extended beyond its five-year term under the Emergency proclaimed the previous year. The constitution stipulates that the Lok Sabha must meet at least twice a year, and no more than six months can pass between sessions. The Lok Sabha customarily meets for three sessions a year. The Council of Ministers is responsible only to the Lok Sabha, and the authority to initiate financial legislation is vested exclusively in the Lok Sabha.
The powers and authority of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha are not differentiated. The index of the constitution, for example, has a lengthy list of the powers of Parliament but not for each separate house. The key differences between the two houses lie in their disparate authority in the legislative process.
The Rajya Sabha has a maximum of 250 members. All but twelve are elected by state and territory legislatures for six-year terms. Members must be at least thirty years old. The president nominates up to twelve members on the basis of their special knowledge or practical experience in fields such as literature, science, art, and social service. No further approval of these nominations is required by Parliament. Elections are staggered so that one-third of the members are elected every two years. The number of seats allocated to each state and territory is determined on the basis of relative population, except that smaller states and territories are awarded a larger share than their population justifies.
The Rajya Sabha meets in continuous session. It is not subject to dissolution as is the Lok Sabha. The Rajya Sabha is designed to provide stability and continuity to the legislative process. Although considered the upper house, its authority in the legislative process is subordinate to that of the Lok Sabha.Legislative Process
The initiative for substantial legislation comes primarily from the prime minister, cabinet members, and high-level officials. Although all legislation except financial bills can be introduced in either house, most laws originate in the Lok Sabha. A legislative proposal may go through three readings before it is voted on. After a bill has been passed by the originating house, it is sent to the other house, where it is debated and voted on. The second house can accept, reject, or amend the bill. If the bill is amended by the second house, it must be returned to the originating house in its amended form. If a bill is rejected by the second house, if there is disagreement about the proposed amendments, or if the second house fails to act on a bill for six months, the president is authorized to summon a joint session of Parliament to vote on the bill. Disagreements are resolved by a majority vote of the members of both houses present in a joint session. This procedure favors the Lok Sabha because it has more than twice as many members as the Rajya Sabha.
When the bill has been passed by both houses, it is sent to the president, who can refuse assent and send the bill back to Parliament for reconsideration. If both houses pass it again, with or without amendments, it is sent to the president a second time. The president is then obliged to assent to the legislation. After receiving the president's assent, a bill becomes an act on the statute book.
The legislative procedure for bills involving taxing and spending--known as money bills--is different from the procedure for other legislation. Money bills can be introduced only in the Lok Sabha. After the Lok Sabha passes a money bill, it is sent to the Rajya Sabha. The upper house has fourteen days to act on the bill. If the Rajya Sabha fails to act within fourteen days, the bill becomes law. The Rajya Sabha may send an amended version of the bill back to the Lok Sabha, but the latter is not bound to accept these changes. It may pass the original bill again, at which point it will be sent to the president for his signature.
During the 1950s and part of the 1960s, Parliament was often the scene of articulate debate and substantial revisions of legislation. Prime ministers Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, and P.V. Narasimha Rao, however, showed little enthusiasm for parliamentary debate. During the 1975-77 Emergency, many members of Parliament from the opposition as well as dissidents within Indira's own party were arrested, and press coverage of legislative proceedings was censored. It is generally agreed that the quality of discourse and the expertise of members of Parliament have declined since the 1960s. An effort to halt the decline of Parliament through a reformed committee system giving Parliament new powers of oversight over the executive branch has had very limited impact.
Under the constitution, the division of powers between the union government and the states is delimited into three lists: the Union List, the State List, and the Concurrent List. Parliament has exclusive authority to legislate on any of the ninety-seven items on the Union List. The list includes banking, communications, defense, foreign affairs, interstate commerce, and transportation. The State List includes sixty-seven items that are under the exclusive jurisdiction of state legislatures, including agriculture, local government, police, public health, public order, and trade and commerce within the state. The central--or union--government and state governments exercise concurrent jurisdiction over forty-four items on the Concurrent List, including criminal law and procedure, economic and social planning, electricity, factories, marriage and divorce, price control, social security and social insurance, and trade unions. The purpose of the Concurrent List is to secure legal and administrative unity throughout the country. Laws passed by Parliament relevant to Concurrent List areas take precedence over laws passed by state legislatures.The Executive
The executive branch is headed by the president, in whom the constitution vests a formidable array of powers. The president serves as head of state and the supreme commander of the armed forces. The president appoints the prime minister, cabinet members, governors of states and territories, Supreme Court and high court justices, and ambassadors and other diplomatic representatives. The president is also authorized to issue ordinances with the force of acts of Parliament when Parliament is not in session. The president can summon and prorogue Parliament as well as dissolve the Lok Sabha and call for new elections. The president also can dismiss state and territory governments. Exercise of these impressive powers has been restricted by the convention that the president acts on the advice of the prime minister. In 1976 the Forty-second Amendment formally required the president to act according to the advice of the Council of Ministers headed by the prime minister. The spirit of the arrangement is reflected in Ambedkar's statement that the president "is head of the State but not of the Executive. He represents the nation but does not rule the nation." In practice, the president's role is predominantly symbolic and ceremonial, roughly analogous to the president of Germany or the British monarch.
The president is elected for a five-year term by an electoral college consisting of the elected members of both houses of Parliament and the elected members of the legislative assemblies of the states and territories. The participation of state and territory assemblies in the election is designed to ensure that the president is chosen to head the nation and not merely the majority party in Parliament, thereby placing the office above politics and making the incumbent a symbol of national unity.
Despite the strict constraints placed on presidential authority, presidential elections have shaped the course of Indian politics on several occasions, and presidents have exercised important power, especially when no party has a clear parliamentary majority. The presidential election of 1969, for example, turned into a dramatic test of strength for rival factions when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi put up an opponent to the official Congress candidate. The electoral contest contributed to the subsequent split of the Congress. In 1979, after the Ja-nata Party began to splinter, President Neelam Sanjiva Reddy (1977-82) first selected Janata member Chaudhury Charan Singh as prime minister (1979-80) to form a minority government and then dissolved Parliament and called for new elections while ignoring Jagjivan Ram's claim that he could assemble a stable government and become the country's first Scheduled Caste prime minister.
Tensions between President Giani Zail Singh (1982-87) and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi (1984-88) also illustrate the potential power of the president. In 1987 Singh refused to sign the Indian Post Office (Amendment) Bill, thereby preventing the government from having the authority to censor personal mail. Singh's public suggestion that the prime minister had not treated the office of the president with proper dignity and the persistent rumors that Singh was plotting the prime minister's ouster contributed to the erosion of public confidence in Rajiv Gandhi that ultimately led to his defeat in the 1989 elections. In November 1990, President Ramaswami Venkataraman (1987-92) selected Chandra Shekhar as India's eleventh prime minister, even though Chandra Shekhar's splinter Samajwadi Janata Dal held only fifty-eight seats in the Lok Sabha. Chandra Shekhar resigned in June 1991 when the Congress (I) withdrew its support.
In the same manner as the president, the vice president is elected by the electoral college for a five-year term. The vice president is ex officio chairman of the Rajya Sabha and acts as president when the latter is unable to discharge his duties because of absence, illness, or any other reason or until a new president can be elected (within six months of the vacancy) when a vacancy occurs because of death, resignation, or removal. There have been three instances since 1969 of the vice president serving as acting president.
The prime minister is by far the most powerful figure in the government. After being selected by the president, typically from the party that commands the plurality of seats in Parliament, the prime minister selects the Council of Ministers from other members of Parliament who are then appointed by the president. Individuals who are not members of Parliament may be appointed to the Council of Ministers if they become a member of Parliament either through election or appointment within six months of selection. The Council of Ministers is composed of cabinet ministers (numbering seventeen, representing thirty-one portfolios in 1995), ministers of state (forty-five, representing fifty-three portfolios in 1995), and deputy ministers (the number varies). Cabinet members are selected to accommodate different regional groups, castes, and factions within the ruling party or coalition as well as with an eye to their administrative skills and experience. Prime ministers frequently retain key ministerial portfolios for themselves.
Although the Council of Ministers is formally the highest policy-making body in the government, its powers have declined as influence has been increasingly centralized in the Office of the Prime Minister, which is composed of the top-ranking administrative staff. After the Congress split to form the Congress (R)--R for Requisition--and the Congress (O)--O for Organisation--in 1969, Indira Gandhi (who headed the Congress (R)) increasingly concentrated decision-making authority in the Office of the Prime Minister. When Rajiv Gandhi became prime minister in 1984, he promised to delegate more authority to his cabinet members. However, power rapidly shifted back to the Office of the Prime Minister and a small coterie of Rajiv's personal advisers. Rajiv's dissatisfaction with his cabinet ministers became manifest in his incessant reshuffling of his cabinet. During his five years in office, he changed his cabinet thirty-six times, about once every seven weeks. When P.V. Narasimha Rao became prime minister in June 1991, he decentralized power, giving Minister of Finance Manmohan Singh, in particular, a large measure of autonomy to develop a program for economic reform. After a year in office, Rao began again to centralize authority, and by the end of 1994, the Office of the Prime Minister had grown to be as powerful as it ever was under Rao's predecessors. As of August 1995, Rao himself held the portfolios in thirteen ministries, including those of defense, industry, and Kashmir affairs.The Judiciary
The Supreme Court is the ultimate interpreter of the constitution and the laws of the land. It has appellate jurisdiction over all civil and criminal proceedings involving substantial issues concerning the interpretation of the constitution. The court has the original and exclusive jurisdiction to resolve disputes between the central government and one or more states and union territories as well as between different states and union territories. And the Supreme Court is also empowered to issue advisory rulings on issues referred to it by the president. The Supreme Court has wide discretionary powers to hear special appeals on any matter from any court except those of the armed services. It also functions as a court of record and supervises every high court.
Twenty-five associate justices and one chief justice serve on the Supreme Court. The president appoints the chief justice. Associate justices are also appointed by the president after consultation with the chief justice and, if the president deems necessary, with other associate justices of the Supreme Court and high court judges in the states. The appointments do not require Parliament's concurrence. Justices may not be removed from office until they reach mandatory retirement at age sixty-five unless each house of Parliament passes, by a vote of two-thirds of the members in attendance and a majority of its total membership, a presidential order charging "proved misbehavior or incapacity."
The contradiction between the principles of parliamentary sovereignty and judicial review that is embedded in India's constitution has been a source of major controversy over the years. After the courts overturned state laws redistributing land from zamindar (see Glossary) estates on the grounds that the laws violated the zamindars' Fundamental Rights, Parliament passed the first (1951), fourth (1955), and seventeenth amendments (1964) to protect its authority to implement land redistribution. The Supreme Court countered these amendments in 1967 when it ruled in the Golaknath v State of Punjab case that Parliament did not have the power to abrogate the Fundamental Rights, including the provisions on private property. On February 1, 1970, the Supreme Court invalidated the government-sponsored Bank Nationalization Bill that had been passed by Parliament in August 1969. The Supreme Court also rejected as unconstitutional a presidential order of September 7, 1970, that abolished the titles, privileges, and privy purses of the former rulers of India's old princely states.
In reaction to Supreme Court decisions, in 1971 Parliament passed the Twenty-fourth Amendment empowering it to amend any provision of the constitution, including the Fundamental Rights; the Twenty-fifth Amendment, making legislative decisions concerning proper land compensation nonjusticiable; and the Twenty-sixth Amendment, which added a constitutional article abolishing princely privileges and privy purses. On April 24, 1973, the Supreme Court responded to the parliamentary offensive by ruling in the Keshavananda Bharati v the State of Kerala case that although these amendments were constitutional, the court still reserved for itself the discretion to reject any constitutional amendments passed by Parliament by declaring that the amendments cannot change the constitution's "basic structure."
During the 1975-77 Emergency, Parliament passed the Forty-second Amendment in January 1977, which essentially abrogated the Keshavananda ruling by preventing the Supreme Court from reviewing any constitutional amendment with the exception of procedural issues concerning ratification. The Forty-second Amendment's fifty-nine clauses stripped the Supreme Court of many of its powers and moved the political system toward parliamentary sovereignty. However, the Forty-third and Forty-fourth amendments, passed by the Janata government after the defeat of Indira Gandhi in March 1977, reversed these changes. In the Minerva Mills case of 1980, the Supreme Court reaffirmed its authority to protect the basic structure of the constitution. However, in the Judges Transfer case on December 31, 1981, the Supreme Court upheld the government's authority to dismiss temporary judges and transfer high court justices without the consent of the chief justice.
The Supreme Court continued to be embroiled in controversy in 1989, when its US$470 million judgment against Union Carbide for the Bhopal catastrophe resulted in public demonstrations protesting the inadequacy of the settlement (see The Growth of Cities, ch. 5). In 1991 the first-ever impeachment motion against a Supreme Court justice was signed by 108 members of Parliament. A year later, a high-profile inquiry found Associate Justice V. Ramaswamy "guilty of willful and gross misuses of office . . . and moral turpitude by using public funds for private purposes and reckless disregard of statutory rules" while serving as chief justice of Punjab and Haryana. Despite this strong indictment, Ramaswamy survived parliamentary impeachment proceedings and remained on the Supreme Court after only 196 members of Parliament, less than the required two-thirds, voted for his ouster.
During 1993 and 1994, the Supreme Court took measures to bolster the integrity of the courts and protect civil liberties in the face of state coercion. In an effort to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest in the judiciary, Chief Justice Manepalli Narayanrao Venkatachaliah initiated a controversial model code of conduct for judges that required the transfer of high court judges having children practicing as attorneys in their courts. Since 1993, the Supreme Court has implemented a policy to compensate the victims of violence while in police custody. On April 27, 1994, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that enhanced the rights of individuals placed under arrest by stipulating elaborate guidelines for arrest, detention, and interrogation.
There are eighteen high courts for India's twenty-five states, six union territories, and one national capital territory. Some high courts serve more than one state or union territory. For example, the high court of the union territory of Chandigarh also serves Punjab and Haryana, and the high court in Gauhati (in Meghalaya) serves Assam, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura, and Arunachal Pradesh. As part of the judicial system, the high courts are institutionally independent of state legislatures and executives. The president appoints state high court chief justices after consulting with the chief justice of the Supreme Court and the governor of the state. The president also consults with the chief justice of the state high court before he appoints other high court justices. Furthermore, the president may also exercise the right to transfer high court justices without consultation. These personnel matters are becoming more politicized as chief ministers of states endeavor to exert their influence with New Delhi and the prime minister exerts influence over the president to secure politically advantageous appointments.
Each high court is a court of record exercising original and appellate jurisdiction within its respective state or territory. It also has the power to issue appropriate writs in cases involving constitutionally guaranteed Fundamental Rights. The high court supervises all courts within its jurisdiction, except for those dealing with the armed forces, and may transfer constitutional cases to itself from subordinate courts (see Criminal Law and Procedure, ch. 10). The high courts have original jurisdiction on revenue matters. They try original criminal cases by a jury, but not civil cases.
States are divided into districts (zillas ), and within each a judge presides as a district judge over civil cases. A sessions judge presides over criminal cases. The judges are appointed by the governor in consultation with the state's high court. District courts are subordinate to the authority of their high court.
There is a hierarchy of judicial officials below the district level. Many officials are selected through competitive examination by the state's public service commission. Civil cases at the subdistrict level are filed in munsif (subdistrict) courts. Lesser criminal cases are entrusted to the courts of subordinate magistrates functioning under the supervisory authority of a district magistrate. All magistrates are under the supervision of the high court. At the village level, disputes are frequently resolved by panchayats or lok adalats (people's courts).
The judicial system retains substantial legitimacy in the eyes of many Indians despite its politicization since the 1970s. In fact, as illustrated by the rise of social action litigation in the 1980s and 1990s, many Indians turn to the courts to redress grievances with other social and political institutions. It is frequently observed that Indians are highly litigious, which has contributed to a growing backlog of cases. Indeed, the Supreme Court was reported to have more than 150,000 cases pending in 1990, the high courts had some 2 million cases pending, and the lower courts had a substantially greater backlog. Research findings in the early 1990s show that the backlogs at levels below the Supreme Court are the result of delays in the litigation process and the large number of decisions that are appealed and not the result of an increase in the number of new cases filed. Coupled with public perceptions of politicization, the growing inability of the courts to resolve disputes expeditiously threatens to erode the remaining legitimacy of the judicial system.Election Commission
Article 324 of the constitution establishes an independent Election Commission to supervise parliamentary and state elections. Supervising elections in the world's largest democracy is by any standard an immense undertaking. Some 521 million people were eligible to vote in 1991. Efforts are made to see that polling booths are situated no more than two kilometers from a voter's place of residence. In 1991, this objective required some 600,000 polling stations for the country's 3,941 state legislative assembly and 543 parliamentary constituencies. To attempt to ensure fair elections, the Election Commission deployed more than 3.5 million officials, most of whom were temporarily seconded from the government bureaucracy, and 2 million police, paramilitary, and military forces.
Over the years, the Election Commission's enforcement of India's remarkably strict election laws grew increasingly lax. As a consequence, candidates flagrantly violated laws limiting campaign expenditures. Elections became increasingly violent (350 persons were killed during the 1991 campaign, including five Lok Sabha and twenty-one state assembly candidates), and voter intimidation and fraud proliferated.
The appointment of T.N. Seshan as chief election commissioner in 1991 reinvigorated the Election Commission and curbed the illegal manipulation of India's electoral system. By cancelling or repolling elections where improprieties had occurred, disciplining errant poll officers, and fighting for the right to deploy paramilitary forces in sensitive areas, Seshan forced candidates to take the Election Commission's code of conduct seriously and strengthened its supervisory machinery. In Uttar Pradesh, where more than 100 persons were killed in the 1991 elections, Seshan succeeded in reducing the number killed to two in the November 1993 assembly elections by enforcing compulsory deposit of all licensed firearms, banning unauthorized vehicular traffic, and supplementing local police with paramilitary units. In state assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka, and Sikkim, after raising ceilings for campaign expenditures to realistic levels, Seshan succeeded in getting candidates to comply with these limits by deploying 336 audit officers to keep daily accounts of the candidates' election expenditures. Although Seshan has received enthusiastic support from the public, he has stirred great controversy among the country's politicians. In October 1993, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that confirmed the supremacy of the chief election commissioner, thereby deflecting an effort to rein in Seshan by appointing an additional two election commissioners. Congress (I)'s attempt to curb Seshan's powers through a constitutional amendment was foiled after a public outcry weakened its support in Parliament.State Governments and Territories
India has twenty-five states, six union territories, and one national capital territory, with populations ranging from 406,000 (Sikkim) to 139 million (Uttar Pradesh). Ten states each have more than 40 million people, making them countrylike in significance (see Structure and Dynamics, ch. 2). There are eighteen official Scheduled Languages (see Glossary), clearly defined since the reorganization of states along linguistic lines in the 1950s and 1960s (see The Social Context of Languages, ch. 4). Social structures within states vary considerably, and they encompass a great deal of cultural diversity, as those who have watched India's Republic Day (January 26) celebrations will attest (see Larger Kinship Groups, ch. 5).
The constitution provides for a legislature in each state and territory. Most states have unicameral legislatures, but Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh have bicameral legislatures. The lower house, known as the vidhan sabha , or legislative assembly, is the real seat of legislative power. Where an upper house exists, it is known as the vidhan parishad , or legislative council; council functions are advisory, and any objections expressed to a bill may be overridden if the assembly passes the bill a second time. Members of the assembly serve five-year terms after being chosen by direct elections from local constituencies. Their numbers vary, from a minimum of sixty to a maximum of 500. Members of the council are selected through a combination of direct election, indirect election, and nomination. Their six-year terms are staggered so that one-third of the membership is renewed every two years. Whether in the upper or lower house, membership in the assembly has come to reflect the predominantly rural demography of most states and the distribution of social power resulting from the state's agrarian and caste structures.
The structure of state governments is similar to that of the central government. In the executive branch, the governor plays a role analogous to that of the president, and the elected chief minister presides over a council of ministers drawn from the legislature in a manner similar to the prime minister. Many of the governor's duties are honorific; however, the governor also has considerable power. Like the president, the governor selects who may attempt to form a government; he may also dismiss a state's government and dissolve its legislative assembly. All bills that the state legislature passes must receive the assent of the governor. The governor may return bills other than money bills to the assembly. The governor may also decide to send a bill for consideration to the president, who has the power to promulgate ordinances. The governor may also recommend to the president that President's Rule be invoked. Governors are appointed to office for a five-year term by the president on the advice of the prime minister, and their conduct is supposed to be above politics.
Since 1967 most state legislatures have come under the control of parties in opposition to the majority in Parliament, and governors have frequently acted as agents of the ruling party in New Delhi. Increasingly, governors are appointed more for their loyalty to the prime minister than for their distinguished achievements and discretion. The politicization of gubernatorial appointments has become such a widespread practice that in 1989, shortly after the National Front government replaced the Congress (I) government, Prime Minister V.P. Singh (1989-90) asked eighteen governors to resign so that he could replace them with his own choices. Governors not only attempt to keep opposition state governments in line, but also, while keeping the state bureaucracy in place, have exercised their power to dismiss the chief minister and his or her council of ministers.
The strength of the central government relative to the states is especially apparent in constitutional provisions for central intervention into state jurisdictions. Article 3 of the constitution authorizes Parliament, by a simple majority vote, to establish or eliminate states and union territories or change their boundaries and names. The emergency powers granted to the central government by the constitution enable it, under certain circumstances, to acquire the powers of a unitary state. The central government can also dismiss a state government through President's Rule. Article 249 of the constitution enables a two-thirds vote of the Rajya Sabha to empower Parliament to pass binding legislation for any of the subjects on the State List. Articles 256 and 257 require states to comply with laws passed by Parliament and with the executive authority of the central government. The articles empower the central government to issue directives instructing states on compliance in these matters. Article 200 also enables a state governor, under certain circumstances, to refuse to give assent to bills passed by the state legislature and instead refer them to the president for review.
The central government exerts control over state governments through the financial resources at its command. The central government distributes taxes and grants-in-aid through the decisions of finance commissions, usually convened every five years as stipulated by Article 275. The central government also distributes substantial grants through its development plans as elaborated by the Planning Commission. The dependence of state governments on grants and disbursements grew throughout the 1980s as states began to run up fiscal deficits and the share of transfers from New Delhi increased. The power and influence of central government finances also can be seen in the substantial funds allocated under the central government's five-year plans to such areas as public health and agriculture that are constitutionally under the State List (see Health Care, ch. 2; Development Programs, ch. 7).
Besides its twenty-five states, India has seven centrally supervised territories. Six are union territories; one is the National Capital Territory of Delhi. Jurisdictions for territories are smaller than states and less populous. The central government administers union territories through either a lieutenant governor or a chief commissioner who is appointed by the president on the advice of the prime minister. Each territory also has a council of ministers, a legislature, and a high court; however, Parliament may also pass legislation on issues in union territories that in the case of states are usually reserved for state assemblies. The Sixty-ninth Amendment, passed in December 1991, made Delhi the national capital territory effective February 1, 1992. Although not having the same status as statehood, Delhi was given the power of direct election of members of its legislative assembly and the power to pass its own laws.
The decline of the Congress (I) since the late 1980s has brought an end to the dominant single-party system that had long characterized India's politics. Under the old system, conflict within the Congress was often a more important political dynamic than was conflict between the Congress and the opposition. The Congress had set the political agenda and the opposition responded. A new party system, in which the Congress (I) is merely one of several major participants, was in place by 1989 (see fig. 15). As often as not in the mid-1990s, the Congress (I) seems to respond to the initiatives of other parties rather than set its own political agenda.Elections
At least once every five years, India's Election Commission supervises one of the largest, most complex exercises of collective action in the world. India's elections in the 1990s involve overseeing an electorate of about 521 million voters who travel to nearly 600,000 polling stations to chose from some 8,950 candidates representing roughly 162 parties. The elections reveal much about Indian society. Candidates span a wide spectrum of backgrounds, including former royalty, cinema superstars, religious holy men, war heroes, and a growing number of farmers. Campaigns utilize communications technologies ranging from the latest video van with two-way screens to the traditional rumor traveling by word of mouth. Increasing violence also has come to characterize elections. In 1991, some 350 people, including former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, four other parliamentary candidates, and twenty-one candidates running in state legislative assembly elections, were killed in election-related violence.Political Parties
India's party system is in the throes of historic change. The 1989 general elections brought the era of Congress dominance to an end. Even though the Congress (I) regained power in 1991, it was no longer the pivot around which the party system revolved. Instead, it represented just one strategy for organizing a political majority, and a declining one at that. While the Congress (I) was encountering growing difficulties in maintaining its coalition of upper-caste elites, Muslims, Scheduled Castes, and Scheduled Tribes, the BJP was endeavoring to organize a new majority around the appeal of Hindu nationalism. The Janata Dal and the BSP, among others, were attempting to fashion a new majority out of the increasingly assertive Backward Classes, Dalits, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and religious minorities.
The Congress has, by any standards, remarkable political accomplishments to its credit. As the Indian National Congress, its guidance fashioned a nation out of an extraordinarily heterogeneous ensemble of peoples. The party has played an important role in establishing the foundations of perhaps the most durable democratic political system in the developing world. As scholars Francis Robinson and Paul R. Brass point out, the Congress constituted one of the few political organizations in the annals of decolonialization to "make the transition from being sole representative of the nationalist cause to being just one element of a competitive party system."
The Congress dominated Indian politics from independence until 1967. Prior to 1967, the Congress had never won less than 73 percent of the seats in Parliament. The party won every state government election except two--most often exclusively, but also through coalitions--and until 1967 it never won less than 60 percent of all elections for seats in the state legislative assemblies.
There were four factors that accounted for this dominance. First, the party acquired a tremendous amount of good will and political capital from its leadership of the nationalist struggle. Party chiefs gained substantial popular respect for the years in jail and other deprivations that they personally endured. The shared experience of the independence struggle fostered a sense of cohesion, which was important in maintaining unity in the face of the party's internal pluralism.
The second factor was that the Congress was the only party with an organization extending across the nation and down to the village level. The party's federal structure was based on a system of internal democracy that functioned to resolve disputes among its members and maintain party cohesion. Internal party elections also served to legitimate the party leadership, train party workers in the skills of political competition, and create channels of upward mobility that rewarded its most capable members.
A third factor was that the Congress achieved its position of political dominance by creating an organization that adjusted to local circumstances rather than transformed them, often reaching the village through local "big men" (bare admi ) who controlled village "vote banks." These local elites, who owed their position to their traditional social status and their control over land, formed factions that competed for power within the Congress. The internal party democracy and the Congress's subsequent electoral success ultimately reinforced the local power of these traditional elites and enabled the party to adjust to changes in local balances of power. The nonideological pragmatism of local party leadership made it possible to coopt issues that contributed to opposition party success and even incorporate successful opposition leaders into the party. Intraparty competition served to channel information about local circumstances up the party hierarchy.
Fourth, patronage was the oil that lubricated the party machine. As the state expanded its development role, it accumulated more resources that could be distributed to party members. The growing pool of opportunities and resources facilitated the party's ability to accommodate conflict among its members. The Congress enjoyed the benefits of a "virtuous cycle," in which its electoral success gave it access to economic and political resources that enabled the party to attract new supporters.
The halcyon days of what Indian political scientist Rajni Kothari has called "the Congress system" ended with the general elections in 1967. The party lost seventy-eight seats in the Lok Sabha, retaining a majority of only twenty-three seats. Even more indicative of the Congress setback was its loss of control over six of the sixteen state legislatures that held elections. The proximate causes of the reversal included the failure of the monsoons in 1965 and 1966 and the subsequent hardship throughout northern and eastern India, and the unpopular currency devaluation in 1966. However, profound changes in India's polity also contributed to the decline of the Congress. The rapid growth of the electorate, which increased by 45 percent from 1952 to 1967, brought an influx of new voters less appreciative of the Congress's role in the independence movement. Moreover, the simultaneous spread of democratic values produced a political awakening that mobilized new groups and created a more pluralistic constellation of political interests. The development of new and more-differentiated identities and patterns of political cleavage made it virtually impossible for the Congress to contain the competition of its members within its organization. Dissidence and ultimately defection greatly weakened the Congress's electoral performance.
It was in this context that Indira Gandhi asserted her independence from the leaders of the party organization by attempting to take the party in a more populist direction. She ordered the nationalization of India's fourteen largest banks in 1969, and then she supported former labor leader and Acting President Varahagiri Venkata Giri's candidacy for president despite the fact that the party organization had already nominated the more conservative Neelam Sanjiva Reddy. After Giri's election, the party organization expelled Indira Gandhi from the Congress and ordered the parliamentary party to choose a new prime minister. Instead, 226 of the 291 Congress members of Parliament continued to support Indira Gandhi. The Congress split into two in 1969, the new factions being the Congress (O)--for Organisation--and Mrs. Gandhi's Congress (R)--for Requisition. The Congress (R) continued in power with the support of non-Congress groups, principally the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK--Dravidian Progressive Federation).
With the Congress (O) controlling most of the party organization, Indira Gandhi adopted a new strategy to mobilize popular support. For the first time ever, she ordered parliamentary elections to be held separately from elections for the state government. This delinking was designed to reduce the power of the Congress (O)'s state-level political machines in national elections. Mrs. Gandhi traveled throughout the country, energetically campaigning on the slogan "garibi hatao " (eliminate poverty), thereby bypassing the traditional Congress networks of political support. The strategy proved successful, and the Congress (R) won a dramatic victory. In the 1971 elections for the Lok Sabha, the Congress (R) garnered 44 percent of the vote, earning it 352 seats. The Congress (O) won only sixteen seats and 10 percent of the vote. The next year, after leading India to victory over Pakistan in the war for Bangladesh's independence, Indira Gandhi and the Congress (R) further consolidated their control over the country by winning fourteen of sixteen state assembly elections and victories in 70 percent of all seats contested.
The public expected Indira Gandhi to deliver on her mandate to remove poverty. However, the country experienced a severe drought in 1971 and 1972, leading to food shortages, and the price of food rose 20 percent in the spring of 1973. The decision by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to quadruple oil prices in 1973-74 also led to inflation and increased unemployment. Jayaprakash (J.P) Narayan, a socialist leader in the preindependence Indian National Congress who, after 1947, left to conduct social work in the Sarvodaya movement (sarvodaya means uplift of all), came out of retirement to lead what eventually became widely known as the "J.P. movement." Under Narayan's leadership, the movement toppled the government of Gujarat and almost brought down the government in Bihar; Narayan advocated a radical regeneration of public morality that he labelled "total revolution."
After the Allahabad High Court ruled that Mrs. Gandhi had committed electoral law violations and Narayan addressed a massive demonstration in New Delhi, at Indira Gandhi's behest, the president proclaimed an Emergency on June 25, 1975. That night, Indira Gandhi ordered the arrest of almost all the leaders of the opposition, including dissidents within the Congress. In all, more than 110,000 persons were detained without trial during the Emergency.
Indira Gandhi's rule during the Emergency alienated her popular support. After postponing elections for a year following the expiration of the five-year term of the Lok Sabha, she called for new elections in March 1977. The major opposition party leaders, many of whom had developed a rapport while they were imprisoned together under the Emergency regime, united under the banner of the Janata Party. By framing the key issue of the election as "democracy versus dictatorship," the Janata Party--the largest opposition party--appealed to the public's democratic values to rout the Congress (R). The vote share of the Congress (R) dropped to 34.5 percent, and the number of its seats in Parliament plunged from 352 to 154. Indira Gandhi lost her seat.
The inability of Janata Party factions to agree proved the party's undoing. Indira Gandhi returned to win the January 1980 elections after forming a new party, the Congress (I--for Indira), in 1978.
The Congress (I) largely succeeded in reconstructing the traditional Congress electoral support base of Brahmans (see Glossary), Muslims, Scheduled Castes, and Scheduled Tribes that had kept Congress in power in New Delhi during the three decades prior to 1977. The Congress (I)'s share of the vote increased by 8.2 percent to 42.7 percent of the total vote, and its number of seats in the Lok Sabha grew to 353, a majority of about two-thirds. This success approximated the levels of support of the Congress dominance from 1947 to 1967. Yet, as political scientist Myron Weiner observed, "The Congress party that won in 1980 was not the Congress party that had governed India in the 1950s and 1960s, or even the early 1970s. The party was organizationally weak and the electoral victory was primarily Mrs. Gandhi's rather than the party's." As a consequence, the Congress's appeal to its supporters was much more tenuous than it had been in previous decades.
Indira Gandhi's dependence on her flamboyant son Sanjay and, after his accidental death in 1980, on her more reserved son Rajiv gives testimony to the personalization and centralization of power within the Congress (I). Having developed a means to mobilize support without a party organization, she paid little attention to maintaining that support. Rather than allowing intraparty elections to resolve conflicts and select party leaders, Indira Gandhi preferred to fill party posts herself with those loyal to her. As a result, party leaders at the state level lost their legitimacy among the rank and file because their positions depended on the whims of Indira Gandhi rather than on the extent of their popular support. In addition, centralization and the demise of democracy within the party disrupted the flow of information about local circumstances to party leaders and curtailed the ability of the Congress (I) to adjust to social change and incorporate new leaders.
When Rajiv Gandhi took control after his mother's assassination in November 1984, he attempted to breathe new life into the Congress (I) organization. However, the massive electoral victory that the Congress (I) scored under Rajiv's leadership just two months after his mother's assassination gave him neither the skill nor the authority to succeed in this endeavor. Rajiv did, however, attempt to remove the more unsavory elements within the party organization. He denied nominations to one-third of the incumbent members of Parliament during the 1984 Lok Sabha campaign, and he refused to nominate two of every five incumbents in the state legislative assembly elections held in March 1985.
Another of Rajiv's early successes was the passage of the Anti-Defection Bill in January 1985 in an effort to end the bribery that lured legislators to cross partisan lines. Speaking at the Indian National Congress centenary celebrations in Bombay (officially called Mumbai as of 1995), Rajiv launched a vitriolic attack on the "culture of corruption" that had become so pervasive in the Congress (I). However, the old guard showed little enthusiasm for reform. As time passed, Rajiv's position was weakened by the losses that the party suffered in a series of state assembly elections and by his government's involvement in corruption scandals. Ultimately, Rajiv was unable to overcome the resistance within the party to internal elections and reforms. Ironically, as Rajiv's position within the party weakened, he turned for advice to many of the wheelers and dealers of his mother's regime whom he had previously banished.
The frustration of Rajiv Gandhi's promising early initiatives meant that the Congress (I) had no issues on which to campaign as the end of his five-year term approached. On May 15, 1989, just months before its term was to expire, the Congress (I) introduced amendments that proposed to decentralize government authority to panchayat and municipal government institutions. Opposition parties, many of whom were on record as favoring decentralization of government power, vehemently resisted the Congress (I) initiative. They charged that the initiative did not truly decentralize power but instead enabled the central government to circumvent state governments (many of which were controlled by the opposition) by transferring authority from state to local government and strengthening the links between central and local governments. After the Congress (I) failed to win the two-thirds vote required to pass the legislation in the Rajya Sabha on October 13, 1989, it called for new parliamentary elections and made "jana shakti" (power to the people) its main campaign slogan.
The Congress (I) retained formidable campaign advantages over the opposition. The October 17, 1989, announcement of elections took the opposition parties by surprise and gave them little time to form electoral alliances. The Congress (I) also blatantly used the government-controlled television and radio to promote Rajiv Gandhi. In addition, the Congress (I) campaign once again enjoyed vastly superior financing. It distributed some 100,000 posters and 15,000 banners to each of its 510 candidates. It provided every candidate with six or seven vehicles, and it commissioned advertising agencies to make a total of ten video films to promote its campaign.
The results of the 1989 elections were more of a rebuff to the Congress (I) than a mandate for the opposition. Although the Congress (I) remained the largest party in Parliament with 197 seats, it was unable to form a government. Instead, the Ja-nata Dal, which had 143 seats, united with its National Front allies to form a minority government precariously dependent on the support of the BJP (eighty-five seats) and the communist parties (forty-five seats). Although the Congress (I) lost more than 50 percent of its seats in Parliament, its share of the vote dropped only from 48.1 percent to 39.5 percent of the vote. The Congress (I) share of the vote was still more than double that of the next largest party, the Janata Dal, which received support from 17.8 percent of the electorate. More grave for the long-term future of the Congress (I) was the erosion of vital elements of the traditional coalition of support for the Congress (I) in North India. Alienated by the Congress (I)'s cultivation of Hindu activists, Muslims defected to the Janata Dal in large numbers. The Congress (I) simultaneously lost a substantial share of Scheduled Caste voters to the BSP in Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh and to the Indian People's Front in Bihar.
To offset these losses, the Congress (I) attempted to play a "Hindu card." On August 14, 1989, the Supreme Court ruled that no parties or groups could disturb the status quo of the Babri Masjid, a sixteenth-century mosque in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. The mosque was controversial because Hindu nationalists claim it was on the site of the birthplace of the Hindu god Ram and that, as such, the use by Muslims was sacrilegious (see Vishnu, ch. 3). Despite the court ruling, in September the Congress (I) entered into an agreement with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP--World Hindu Council), a conservative religious organization with close ties to Hindu nationalists, to allow the VHP to proceed with a ceremony to lay the foundation for the Ramjanmabhumi (birthplace of Ram) Temple. (The VHP had been working toward this goal since 1984.) In return, the Congress (I) secured the VHP's agreement to perform the ceremony on property adjacent to the Babri Masjid that was not in dispute. By reaching this agreement, the Congress (I) attempted to appeal to Hindu activists while retaining Muslim support. Rajiv Gandhi's decision to kick off his campaign less than six kilometers from the Babri Masjid and his appeal to voters that they vote for the Congress (I) if they wished to bring about "Ram Rajya" (the rule of Ram) were other elements of the Congress (I)'s strategy to attract the Hindu vote (see Political Issues, this ch.)
The 1991 elections returned the Congress (I) to power but did not reverse important trends in the party's decline. The Congress (I) won 227 seats, up from 197 in 1989, but its share of the vote dropped from 39.5 percent in 1989 to 37.6 percent. Greater division within the opposition rather than growing popularity of the Congress (I) was the key element in the party's securing an increased number of seats. Also troubling was the further decline of the Congress (I) in heavily populated Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, which together account for more than 25 percent of all seats in Parliament. In Uttar Pradesh, the number of seats that the Congress (I) was able to win went down from fifteen to two, and its share of the vote dropped from 32 percent to 20 percent. In Bihar the seats won by the Congress (I) fell from four to one, and the Congress (I) share of the vote was reduced from 28 percent to 22 percent. The Congress (I) problems in these states, which until 1989 had been bastions of its strength, were reinforced by the party's poor showing in the November 1993 state elections. These elections were characterized by the further disintegration of the traditional Congress coalition, with Brahmans and other upper castes defecting to the BJP and Scheduled Castes and Muslims defecting to the Janata Dal, the Samajwadi Party (Socialist Party), and the BSP.
Strong evidence indicates that the Congress (I) would have fared significantly worse had it not been for the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in the middle of the elections. A wave of sympathy similar to that which helped elect Rajiv after the assassination of his mother increased the Congress (I) support. In the round of voting that took place before Rajiv's death, the Congress (I) won only 26 percent of the seats and 33 percent of the vote. In the votes that occurred after Rajiv's death, the Congress (I) won 58 percent of the seats and 40 percent of the popular vote. It may also be that Rajiv's demise ended the "anti-Congressism" that had pervaded the political system as a result of his family's dynastic domination of Indian politics through its control over the Congress.
Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by a Tamil suicide bomber affiliated with the Sri Lankan Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during a political campaign in May 1991. Only after his assassination did hope for reforming the Congress (I) reappear. The end of three generations of Nehru-Gandhi family leadership left Rajiv's coterie of political manipulators in search of a new kingpin. The bankruptcy of the Congress (I) leadership was highlighted by the fact that they initially turned to Sonia Gandhi, Rajiv's Italian-born wife, to lead the party. Sonia's primary qualification was that she was Rajiv's widow. She had never held elected office and, during her early years in India, she had expressed great disdain for political life. However, although she did not assume a leadership role, she continued to be seen as a "kingmaker" in the Congress (I). Her advice was sought after, and she was called on to lead the party in the mid-1990s. An unusual public speech by Sonia Gandhi criticizing the government of P.V. Narasimha Rao in August 1995 further fueled speculation that she was a candidate for political leadership.
Sonia Gandhi's refusal in 1991 to become president of the Congress (I) led the mantle of party leadership to fall on Rao. Rao was a septuagenarian former professor who had retired from politics before the 1991 elections after undergoing heart-bypass surgery. Rao had a conciliatory demeanor and was acceptable to the party's contending factions. Paradoxically, the precariously positioned Rao was able to take more substantial steps in the direction of party reform than his predecessors. First, Rao had to demonstrate that he could mobilize popular support for himself and the party, a vital currency of power for any Congress (I) leader. He did so in the November 15, 1991, by-elections by winning his own seat in Andhra Pradesh unopposed and leading the party to victory in a total of eight of the fifteen parliamentary by-elections. By the end of 1991, Rao had succeeded in initiating the first intraparty elections in the Congress in almost twenty years. Although there was widespread manipulation by local party bosses, the elections enhanced the legitimacy of party leaders and held forth the prospect of a rejuvenated party organization. The process culminated in April 1992 at the All-India Congress (I) Committee at Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, where elections were held for the ten vacant seats in the Congress Working Committee.
In the wake of the Tirupati session, Rao became less interested in promoting party democracy and more concerned with consolidating his own position. The change was especially apparent in the 1993 All-India Congress (I) Committee session at Surajkund (in Haryana), where Rao's supporters lavishly praised the prime minister and coercively silenced his opponents. However, Rao's image was damaged in July 1993 after Harshad Mehta, a stockbroker under indictment for allegedly playing a leading role in a US$2 billion stock scam in 1992, accused Rao of personally accepting a bribe that he had delivered on November 4, 1991. The extent of the press coverage of the charges and their apparent credibility among the public was evidence of the pervasive public cynicism toward politicians. Rao's stock in the party and Congress (I)'s position within Parliament were greatly weakened. On July 28, 1993, his government barely survived a no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha. Rao's position was temporarily strengthened at the end of 1993 when he was able to cobble together a parliamentary majority. However, support for Rao and the Congress (I) declined again in 1994. The party was rocked by a scandal relating to the procurement of sugar stocks that cost the government an estimated Rs6.5 billion (US$210 million; for value of the rupee--see Glossary) and by losses in legislative assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh--Rao's home state, where he personally took control over the campaign--and Karnataka. The Congress (I) again lost in three of four major states in elections held in the spring of 1995. The political fallout in New Delhi was an increase in dissident activity within the Congress (I) led by former cabinet members Narain Dutt Tiwari and Arjun Singh and other Rao rivals who sought to split the Congress and form a new party.
Opposition to the Congress has always been fragmented. Opposition parties range from Hindu nationalist parties such as the BJP on the right to communist parties on the left (see table 33, Appendix). The divisiveness of the opposition, combined with the "first-past-the-post" electoral system, has enabled the Congress to dominate Indian politics without ever winning a majority of the vote from the national electorate. The extent of electoral alliances among the opposition is an important predictor of its ability to win seats in Parliament. The first two instances when the opposition succeeded in forming a government at the center occurred after it united under the Janata Party banner in 1977 and after the formation of the Janata Dal and the National Front in 1988. In each of these cases, the unity that was facilitated by anti-Congress sentiment prior to the elections collapsed in the face of rivalry and ambition once the opposition came into power.
Prior to 1967, the opposition was divided into an array of small parties. While the Congress garnered between 45 percent and 48 percent of the vote, no opposition party gained as much as 11 percent, and during the entire period, only two parties won 10 percent. Furthermore, in each election, independent candidates won between 12 percent and 20 percent of the vote.
The opposition's first significant attempt to achieve electoral unity occurred during the 1967 elections when opposition party alliances won control of their state governments in Bihar, Kerala, Orissa, Punjab, and West Bengal. In Rajasthan an opposition coalition prevented the Congress from winning a majority in the state legislature and forced it to recruit independents to form a government. The Congress electoral debacle encouraged even more dissidence within the party, and in a matter of weeks after the elections, defections brought down Congress governments in Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh. By July 1967, state governments of two-thirds of the country were under opposition rule. However, opposition rule in many cases was short-lived. The aftermath of the 1967 elections initiated a climate of politics by defection in which the Congress, and to a lesser extent the opposition, attempted to overthrow governments by winning over their state legislators with promises of greater political power and outright bribes. Needless to say, this period seriously undermined the ability of most parties to discipline their members. The increase in opposition-ruled state governments after 1967 also prompted the Congress to use President's Rule to dismiss opposition-led state governments with increasing frequency (see Emergency Provisions and Authoritarian Powers, this ch.).
Although the centrist and right-wing opposition formed a "grand alliance" during the 1971 parliamentary elections, it was not until the general elections of 1977 that opposition efforts culminated in electoral success at the national level. Imprisoned together under the authoritarian measures of the Emergency, India's senior opposition leaders found their personal animosity toward Indira Gandhi and the Congress to be a powerful motivation to overcome their division and rivalry. In January 1977, opposition parties reactivated a pre-Emergency multiparty front, campaigned under the banner of the Janata Party, and won a dramatic electoral victory in March 1977. The Janata Party was made up of the Congress (O), the Jana Sangh, the Bharatiya Lok Dal (Indian People Party), the Samajwadi Party (Socialist Party), a handful of imprisoned Congress dissidents, and the Congress for Democracy--a group led by Scheduled Caste leader Jagjivan Ram that had splintered off from the Congress during the election campaign.
Despite the diversity of this assemblage of parties and the different social strata that they represented, members of the Ja-nata Party achieved surprising ideological and programmatic consensus by passing a program stressing decentralization, development of rural industries, and employment opportunities. It was not ideology, but rather an inability to consolidate partisan organizations and political rivalry among the leadership that led to the demise of the Janata government in 1979. The Janata's three most senior leaders--Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, and Jagjivan Ram--each aspired to be prime minister. The rivalry continued during Desai's tenure (March 1977-July 1979). Desai, Charan Singh, and Ram continually conspired to discredit each other. Their connivances ultimately discredited the Janata Party and allowed the Congress (I) to return to power in 1980.
Just as key defections from the Congress were essential to the Janata electoral success in 1977, so too did V.P. Singh's defection from the Congress (I) in 1987 enable opposition factions from the Janata Party and Bharatiya Lok Dal to unite the Janata Dal in 1988. Regional parties, such as the Telugu Desam Party (Telugu National Party), the DMK, and the Asom Gana Pa-rishad (AGP--Assam People's Assembly), together formed the National Front, led by Janata Dal, which defeated Rajiv Gandhi's Congress (I) in the 1989 parliamentary elections. With V.P. Singh as prime minister, the National Front government earned the appellation of "the crutch government" because it depended on the support of the Communist Party of India (Marxist--CPI (M)) on its left and the BJP on the right.
On August 7, 1990, V.P. Singh suddenly announced that his government would implement the recommendations of the Mandal Commission (see Glossary) to reserve 27 percent of central government jobs for the Backward Classes, defined to include around 52 percent of the population. Although Singh's Janata Dal had pledged to implement the Mandal Commission recommendations as part of its election manifesto, his announcement led to riots throughout North India. Some seventy-five upper-caste youths died after resorting to self-immolation to dramatize their opposition, and almost 200 others were killed in clashes with the police.
BJP president Lal Kishan (L.K.) Advani announced that he would traverse the country on a pilgrimage to Ayodhya where he would lead Hindu activists in the construction of the Ramjanmabhumi Temple on the site of the Babri Masjid. As the pilgrimage progressed, riots between Hindus and Muslims broke out throughout the country. The National Front government decided to end the agitation, and Janata Dal chief minister of Bihar, Laloo Prasad Yadav, arrested Advani on October 23, 1990. On October 30, religious militants attempted to storm the Babri Masjid despite a massive military presence, and as many as twenty-six activists were killed. The BJP's withdrawal of support for the National Front government proved fatal, and V.P. Singh lost a parliamentary vote of confidence on November 7, 1990.
Two days before the vote, Chandra Shekhar, an ambitious Janata Dal rival who had been kept out of the National Front government, joined with Devi Lal, a former deputy prime minister under V.P. Singh, to form the Samajwadi Janata Party--Samajwadi meaning socialist--with a total of sixty Lok Sabha members. The day after the collapse of the National Front government, Chandra Shekhar informed the president that by gaining the backing of the Congress (I) and its electoral allies he enjoyed the support of 280 members of the Lok Sabha, and he demanded the right to constitute a new government. Even though his rump party accounted for only one-ninth of the members of the Lok Sabha, Chandra Shekhar succeeded in forming a new minority government and becoming prime minister (with Devi Lal as deputy prime minister). However, Chandra Shekhar's government fell less than four months later, after the Congress (I) withdrew its support.
The Janata Dal and the Samajwadi Janata Party declined after the fall of the Chandra Shekhar government. In the May-June 1991 parliamentary elections, their share of the vote dropped from 17.8 percent to 15.1 percent, and the number of seats in Parliament that they won fell from 142 to sixty-one. The parties were able to win seats only in Bihar, Orissa, and Uttar Pradesh. The factional rivalry and ineffectiveness that impeded the National Front government's efforts to provide effective government tarnished the Janata Dal image. In the absence of strong national leadership, the party was rendered a confederation of ambitious regional leaders whose rivalry prevented the establishment of a united party organization. The Janata Dal's persistent backing of the Mandal Commission recommendations made the party highly unpopular among high-caste people in the middle and upper classes, creating fund-raising difficulties. Although the Janata Dal won state elections in Karnataka in 1994 and Bihar in the spring of 1995, its poor showing in most other states gave the impression that its support was receding to a few regional bastions.
The BJP is unique among India's political parties in that neither it nor its political predecessors were ever associated with the Congress. Instead, it grew out of an alternative nationalist organization--the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS--National Volunteer Organisation). The BJP still is affiliated with the network of organizations popularly referred to as the RSS family. The RSS was founded in 1925 by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar. Until 1928 a member of the Congress with radical nationalist political leanings, Hedgewar had grown increasingly disenchanted with the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. Hedgewar was particularly critical of Gandhi's emphasis on nonviolence and civil disobedience, which he felt discouraged the forceful political action necessary to gain independence. He established the RSS as an organization that would provide training in martial arts and spiritual matters to rejuvenate the spiritual life of the Hindu community and build its unity.
Hedgewar and his successor, M.S. Golwalkar, scrupulously endeavored to define the RSS's identity as a cultural organization that was not directly involved in politics. However, its rapidly growing membership and the paramilitary-like uniforms and discipline of its activists made the political potential of the RSS apparent to everyone on the political scene. There was considerable sentiment within the Congress that RSS members should be permitted to join, and, in fact, on October 7, 1947, the Congress Working Committee voted to allow in RSS members. But in November 1947, the Congress passed a rule requiring RSS members to give up their affiliation before joining. The RSS was banned in 1948 after Nathuram Godse, a former RSS member, assassinated Mahatma Gandhi. The ban was lifted in 1949 only after the RSS drafted an organizational constitution that was acceptable to the government. Intensely loyal RSS members refused to give up their affiliation to join the Congress and, instead, channeled their political energies to the Jana Sangh (People's Union) after its founding in 1951.
The Jana Sangh grew slowly during the 1950s and 1960s, despite the efforts of RSS members, who quickly took control of the party's organization. Although the Jana Sangh succeeded in displacing the Hindu Mahasabha (a communal party established in 1914 as a counter to Muslim separatists) as the preeminent party of Hindu activists in the Indian political system, it failed to develop into a major rival to the Congress. According to political scientist Bruce Graham, this failure occurred because of the Jana Sangh's inability "to transcend the limitations of its origins," in particular, its identification with the Hindi-speaking, northern heartland and its Brahmanical interpretation of Hinduism rather than the more inclusive and syncretic values of popular Hinduism. However, the experience of the Jana Sangh during the 1970s, especially its increasing resort to populism and agitational tactics, provided essential ingredients for the success of the BJP in the 1980s.
In 1977 the Jana Sangh joined the Janata Party, which defeated Indira Gandhi and the Congress (I) in parliamentary elections and formed a government through the end of 1979. The rapid expansion of the RSS under Janata rule soon brought calls for all members of the RSS family to merge with Janata Party affiliates. Ultimately, intraparty tensions impelled those affiliated with the Jana Sangh to leave the Janata Party and establish a new party--the BJP.
The BJP was formed in April 1980, under the leadership of Atal Behari Vajpayee. Although the party welcomed members of the RSS, the BJP's effort to draw from the legacies of the Ja-nata Party as well as that of the Jana Sangh were suggested by its new name, its choice of a green and saffron flag similar to that of the Janata Party rather than the solid saffron flag of the old Jana Sangh, its adoption of a decentralized organizational structure along the lines of the Janata Party rather than the more centralized model of the Jana Sangh, and its inclusion in its working committee of several non-Jana Sangh individuals, including Sikandar Bakht--a Muslim. The invocation of Gandhian socialism as one of the guiding principles of the BJP rather than the doctrine of "integral humanism" associated with the Jana Sangh was another indication of the impact of the party members' experience in the Janata Party and "J.P. movement."
The new synthesis, however, failed to achieve political success. In 1984 the BJP won only two seats in the parliamentary elections. In the wake of the 1984 elections, the BJP shifted course. Advani replaced Vajpayee as party president. Under Advani's leadership, the BJP appealed to Hindu activists by criticizing measures it construed as pandering to minorities and advocating the repeal of the special status given to the Muslim majority state of Jammu and Kashmir. Simultaneously, it cooperated more closely with other RSS affiliates, particularly the VHP. During the 1980s, the BJP-VHP combine developed into a dynamic political force through its brilliant use of religious symbolism to rouse the passions of the public. The BJP and VHP attained national prominence through their campaign to convert back to Hinduism members of the Scheduled Castes who had converted to Islam. The VHP also agitated to reclaim the Babri Masjid site and encouraged villagers throughout the country to hold religious ceremonies to consecrate bricks made out of their own clay and send them to be used in the construction of the Ramjanmabhumi Temple in Ayodhya.
In the general elections of 1991, the BJP expanded its support more than did any other party. Its number of seats in the Lok Sabha increased from eighty-five to 119, and its vote share grew from 11.4 percent to 21.0 percent. The party was particularly successful in Uttar Pradesh, where it increased its share of the vote from 7.6 percent (eight seats) in 1989 to 35.3 percent (fifty seats) in 1991, and in Gujarat, where its votes and seats climbed from 30 percent (twelve seats) to 52 percent (twenty seats). In addition, BJP support appeared to be spreading into new areas. In Karnataka, its vote rose from 2.6 percent to 28.1 percent, and in West Bengal the BJP's share of the vote expanded from 1.6 to 12.0 percent. However, the elections also revealed some of the limitations of the BJP juggernaut. Exit polls showed that while the BJP received more upper-caste support than all other parties and made inroads into the constituency of Backward Classes, it did poorly among Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, constituencies that it had long attempted to cultivate. In Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan, three state governments run by the BJP since 1990, the BJP lost parliamentary seats although its share of the vote increased. In Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP also won control of the state government in 1991, veteran political analyst Paul R. Brass cogently argued that the BJP had reached the limits of its social base of support.
The limits of the BJP's Hindu nationalist strategy were further revealed by its losses in the November 1993 state elections. The party lost control over the state-level governments of Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh while winning power in Gujarat and the National Capital Territory of Delhi. In the aftermath of the Hindu activists' dismantling of the Babri Masjid in December 1992, the evocative symbolism of the Ramjanmabhumi controversy had apparently lost its capacity to mobilize popular support. Nevertheless, the BJP, by giving more emphasis to anticorruption and social issues, achieved unprecedented success in South India, where it won 28 percent of the vote and came in second in elections in Karnataka in November 1994. In the spring of 1995, the BJP won state elections in Gujarat and became the junior partner of a coalition with Shiv Sena (Army of Shivaji--Shivaji Bhonsle was a seventeenth-century Maratha guerrilla leader who kept Mughal armies at bay) in Maharashtra (see The Marathas, ch. 1). In view of the potential demise of the Congress (I), the BJP stands poised to emerge as India's largest party in the 1990s. However, it is likely to have to play down the more divisive aspects of Hindu nationalism and find other issues to expand its support if it is to win a majority in the Lok Sabha.
The Communist Party of India (CPI) was founded on December 26, 1925, at an all-India conference held at Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, in late December 1925 and early January 1926. Communists participated in the independence struggle and, as members of the Congress Socialist Party, became a formidable presence on the socialist wing of the Indian National Congress. They were expelled from the Congress Socialist Party in March 1940, after allegations that the communists had disrupted party activities and were intent on coopting party organizations. Indeed, by the time the communists were expelled, they had gained control over the entire Congress Socialist Party units in what were to become the southern states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh. Communists remained members of the Indian National Congress although their support of the British war effort after the German invasion of the Soviet Union and their nationalist policy supporting the right of religious minorities to secede from India were diametrically opposed to Congress policies. As a result, the communists became isolated within the Congress. After independence, communists organized a peasant uprising in the Telangana region in the northern part of what was to become Andhra Pradesh. The uprising was suppressed only after the central government sent in the army. Starting in 1951, the CPI shifted to a more moderate strategy of seeking to bring communism to India within the constraints of Indian democracy. In 1957 the CPI was elected to rule the state government of Kerala only to have the government dismissed and President's Rule declared in 1959.
In 1964, in conjunction with the widening rift between China and the Soviet Union, a large leftist faction of the CPI leadership, based predominantly in Kerala and West Bengal, split from the party to form the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI (M). The CPI (M)-led coalition victory in the 1967 West Bengal state elections spurred dissension within the party because a Maoist faction headed a peasant rebellion in the Naxalbari area of the state, just south of Darjiling (Darjeeling). The suppression of the Naxalbari uprising under the direction of the CPI (M)-controlled Home Ministry of the state government led to denunciations by Maoist revolutionary factions across the country. These groups--commonly referred to as Naxalites--sparked new uprisings in the Srikakulam region of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, and other parts of West Bengal. In 1969 several Naxalite factions joined together to form a new party--the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)--CPI (M-L). However, pursuit of insurrectionary tactics in the face of harsh repression by the government along with an array of ideological disputes kept Naxalite factions isolated in their local bases.
In the 1990s, the CPI (M) enjoys the most political strength of any communist group. Nationally, its share of the vote has gradually increased from 4.2 percent in 1967 to 6.7 percent in 1991, but it has largely remained confined to Kerala, Tripura, and West Bengal. In Kerala the CPI (M) in coalition with other parties wrested control from the Congress and its allies (frequently including the CPI) in 1967, in 1980, and in 1987. Support for the CPI (M) in Kerala in general elections has ranged from 19 percent to 26 percent, but the party has never won more than nine of Kerala's twenty seats in Parliament. From 1977 to 1989, the CPI (M) dominated Tripura's state government. It won two parliamentary seats in 1971, 1980, and 1984, but it lost all of its seats in 1977, 1989, and 1991. In West Bengal, the CPI (M) has ruled the state government with a coalition of other leftist parties since 1977, and, since that time, the party has also dominated West Bengal's parliamentary delegation.
Support for the CPI is more evenly spread nationwide, but it is weak and in decline. The CPI share of the parliamentary vote has more than halved from 5.2 percent in 1967 to 2.5 percent in 1991.
In 1982 a CPI (M-L) faction entered the parliamentary arena by forming the Indian People's Front. In the 1989 general elections, the front won a parliamentary seat in western Bihar, and in 1990 it won seven seats in the Bihar legislative assembly. However, the Indian People's Front lost its parliamentary seat in the 1991 parliamentary elections when its vote in Bihar declined by some 20 percent.
Given India's social, cultural, and historical diversity, it is only natural that regional parties play an important role in the country's political life. Because of India's federal system, state assembly votes are held in an electoral arena that often enables regional parties to obtain power by espousing issues of regional concern. Simultaneously, the single-member district, first-past-the-post electoral system has given the advantage to national parties, such as the Congress, which possess a realistic chance of gaining or retaining power at the national level and the opportunity to use central government resources to reward their supporters. Although regional parties have exercised authority at the state level, collectively they receive only from 5 to 10 percent of the national vote in parliamentary elections. Only during the governments of the Janata Party (1977-79) and the National Front (1989-90) have they participated in forming the central government. However, as India's party system becomes more fragmented with the decline of the Congress (I), the regional parties are likely to play an important role at the national level.
Regional political parties have been strongest in Tamil Nadu, where they have dominated state politics since 1967. Regional parties in the state trace their roots to the establishment of the Justice Party by non-Brahman social elites in 1916 and the development of the non-Bhraman Self-Respect Movement, founded in 1925 by E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker. As leader of the Justice Party, in 1944 Ramaswamy renamed the party the Dravida Kazhagam (DK--Dravidian Federation) and demanded the establishment of an independent state called Dravidasthan. In 1949, charismatic film script writer C.N. Annadurai, who was chafing under Ramaswamy's authoritarian leadership, split from the DK to found the DMK in an attempt to achieve the goals of Tamil nationalism through the electoral process. The DMK dropped its demand for Dravidasthan in 1963 but played a prominent role in the agitations that successfully defeated attempts to impose the northern Indian language of Hindi as the official national language in the mid-1960s. The DMK routed the Congress in the 1967 elections in Tamil Nadu and took control of the state government. With the deterioration of Annadurai's health, another screen writer, M. Karunanidhi, became chief minster in 1968 and took control of the party after Annadurai's death in 1969.
Karunanidhi's control over the party was soon challenged by M.G. Ramachandran (best known by his initials, M.G.R.), one of South India's most popular film stars. In 1972 M.G.R. split from the DMK to form the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). Under his leadership, the AIADMK dominated Tamil politics at the state level from 1977 through 1989. The importance of personal charisma in Tamil politics was dramatized by the struggle for control over the AIADMK after M.G.R's death in 1988. His widow, Janaki, herself a former film star, vied for control with Jayalalitha, an actress who had played M.G.R.'s leading lady in several films. The rivalry allowed the DMK to gain control over the state government in 1989. The AIADMK, securely under the control of Jayalalitha, who was cast as a "revolutionary leader," recaptured the state government in 1991. However, since 1980, the Congress (I), usually in alliance with the AIADMK, has won a majority of Tamil Nadu's seats in Parliament.
After three decades of Congress rule, the politics of Andhra Pradesh during the 1980s also became dominated by a charismatic film star who stressed regional issues. In 1982 N.T. Rama Rao (popularly known as N.T.R.), an actor who frequently played Hindu deities in Telugu-language films, formed the Te-lugu Desam. The party ruled the state from 1983 to 1989. It also won thirty of Andhra Pradesh's forty-two parliamentary seats in 1984. With the objective of enhancing Andhra Pradesh's regional autonomy, N.T.R. played a key role in the formation of the National Front coalition government in 1989. However, in the 1989 elections, the Telugu Desam won only two parliamentary seats and lost control over the state government to the Congress (I). It was able to improve its showing to thirteen seats in Parliament in the 1991 elections. The Telugu Desam returned to power in Andhra Pradesh after winning the state legislative assembly elections in November 1994.
The Akali Dal (Eternal Party) claims to represent India's Sikhs, who are concentrated primarily in Punjab. It was first formed in the early 1920s to return control of gurdwaras (Sikh places of worship) to the orthodox Sikh religious community. During the 1960s, the Akali Dal played an important role in the struggle for the creation of Punjab as a separate state with a Sikh majority. Even with the majority Sikh population, the Akali Dal's political success has been limited by the Congress's ability to win votes from the Sikh community. The Akali Dal won nine of Punjab's thirteen parliamentary seats in the general elections of 1977 and seven in 1984 but only one in the 1971 and 1980 elections. Similarly, the Akali Dal headed coalition state governments in 1967 and 1977 and formed the state government in 1985, but it lost state government elections to the Congress (R) in 1972, and to Congress (I) in 1980 and in 1992. As the 1980s progressed, the Akali Dal became increasingly factionalized. In 1989 three Akali Dal factions ran in the elections, winning a total of seven seats. The Akali Dal factions boycotted parliamentary and state legislative elections that were held in February 1992. As a result, voter turnout dropped to 21.6 percent, and the Congress (I) won twelve of Punjab's thirteen seats in Parliament and a majority of seats in the legislative assembly (see Twentieth-Century Developments, ch. 3).
The National Conference, based in Jammu and Kashmir, is a regional party, which, despite its overwhelmingly Muslim following, refused to support the All-India Muslim League (Muslim League--see Glossary) during the independence movement; instead it allied itself with the Indian National Congress. The National Conference was closely identified with its leader, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, a personal friend of Nehru, and, after Abdullah's death in 1982, with his son, Farooq Abdullah. Friendship, however, did not prevent Nehru from imprisoning Sheikh Abdullah when he became concerned that the "Lion of Kashmir" was disposed to demand independence for his state. Ultimately, Sheikh Abdullah struck a deal with Indira Gandhi, and in 1975 he became chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir. The National Conference remained Jammu and Kashmir's dominant party through the 1980s and maintained control over the state government for most of the period. In parliamentary elections, it won one of Kashmir's six parliamentary seats in 1967, none in 1971, two in 1977, and three in 1980, 1984, and 1989. However, popular support for the National Conference was badly eroded by allegations of electoral fraud in the 1987 state elections--which were won by the National Conference in alliance with the Congress (I)--and the widespread corruption of the subsequent state government under the leadership of Farooq Abdullah. There was little popular sympathy for Farooq Abdullah and the National Conference even after the government was dissolved and President's Rule declared in 1990. Jammu and Kashmir remained under President's Rule through 1995, and the absence of elections makes it difficult to ascertain the extent of the National Conference's popular support. Nevertheless, it appears that Farooq and the National Conference remain discredited.
During the late 1980s, the AGP rose to power in Assam on the crest of Assamese nationalism. Immigration to Assam--primarily by Muslim Bengalis from neighboring Bangladesh--had aroused concern that the Assamese would become a minority in their own state. By 1979 attention was focused on the controversial issue of determining how many immigrants would be allowed on the state's list of eligible voters. The Congress (I), which gained a substantial share of the immigrants' votes, took a more expansive view of who should be included while the Assamese nationalist organizations demanded a more restrictive position. An attempt to hold state elections in February 1983, and in effect to force the Assamese nationalists to accept the status quo, resulted in a breakdown of law and order and the deaths of more than 3,000 people. The subsequent formation of a Congress (I) government led by Hiteshwar Saikia was widely viewed in Assam as illegitimate, and it was dissolved as part of the terms of the Assam Accord that was signed between Rajiv Gandhi and Assamese nationalists on August 15, 1985. The Assam Accord also included a compromise on the voter eligibility issue, settled the issue of the citizenship status of immigrants, and stipulated that new elections were to be held in December. The AGP was formed by Assamese student leaders after the signing of the accord, and the new party won the December 1985 elections with 35 percent of the vote and sixty-four of 108 seats in the state legislature.
The victory of the AGP did not end the controversy over Assamese nationalism. The AGP was unable to implement the accord's provisions for disenfranchising and expelling illegal aliens, in part because Parliament passed legislation making it more difficult to prove illegal alien status. The AGP's failure to implement the accord along with the general ineffectiveness with which it operated the state government undercut its popular support, and in November 1990 it was dismissed and President's Rule declared. As the AGP floundered, other nationalist groups of agitators flourished. The United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) became the primary torchbearer of militant Assamese nationalism while the All Bodo Students' Union (ABSU) and Bodo People's Action Committee (BPAC) led an agitation for a separate homeland for the central plain tribal people of Assam (often called Bodos). By 1990 ULFA militants ran virtually a parallel government in the state, extorting huge sums from businesses in Assam, especially the Assamese tea industry. The ULFA was ultimately subdued through a shrewd combination of ruthless military repression and generous terms of surrender for many of its leaders. The ABSU/BPAC-led mass agitation lasted from March 1987 until February 1993 when the ABSU signed an accord with the state government that had been under the Congress (I) control since 1991. The accord provided for the creation of a Bodoland Autonomous Council with jurisdiction over an area of 5,186 square kilometers and 2.1 million people within Assam. Nevertheless, Bodo agitation continued in the mid-1990s as a result of the demands of many Bodo leaders, who insisted that more territory be included under the Bodoland Autonomous Council.
One irony of Indian politics is that its modern secular democracy has enhanced rather than reduced the political salience of traditional forms of social identity such as caste. Part of the explanation for this development is that India's political parties have found the caste-based selection of candidates and appeals to the caste-based interests of the Indian electorate to be an effective way to win popular support. More fundamental has been the economic development and social mobility of those groups officially designated as Backward Classes and Scheduled Castes. Accounting for 52 and 15 percent of the population, respectively, the Backward Classes and Scheduled Castes, or Dalits as they prefer to be called, constitute a diverse range of middle, lower, and outcaste groups who have come to wield substantial power in most states. Indeed, one of the dramas of modern Indian politics has been the Backward Classes and Dalits' jettisoning of their political subordination to upper castes and their assertion of their own interests.
The Backward Classes are such a substantial constituency that almost all parties vie for their support. For instance, the Congress (I) in Maharashtra has long relied on Backward Classes' backing for its political success. The 1990s have seen a growing number of cases where parties, relying primarily on Backward Classes' support, often in alliance with Dalits and Muslims, catapult to power in India's states. Janata Dal governments in Bihar and Karnataka are excellent examples of this strategy. An especially important development is the success of the Samajwadi Party, which under the leadership of Mulayam Singh Yadav won the 1993 assembly elections in India's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, relying almost exclusively on Backward Classes and Muslim support in a coalition with the Dalit-supported BSP.
The growing support of the BSP also reflects the importance of caste-based politics and the assertiveness of the Dalits in particular. The BSP was founded by Kanshi Ram on April 13, 1984, the birthday of B.R. Ambedkar. Born as a Dalit in Punjab, Kanshi Ram resigned from his position as a government employee in 1964 and, after working in various political positions, founded the All-India Backward, Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, Other Backward Classes, and Minority Communities Employees Federation (BAMCEF) in 1978. Although both the BAMCEF and BSP pursue strategies of building support among Backward Classes, Scheduled Tribes, and Muslims as well as Dalits, Kanshi Ram has been most successful in building support among the Dalit Chamar (Leatherworker) caste in North India. In the November 1993 Uttar Pradesh state elections, Ram's BSP achieved the best showing of any Dalit-based party by winning sixty-seven seats. At the same time, the BSP increased its representation in the Madhya Pradesh state legislature from two to twelve seats. On June 1, 1995, the BSP withdrew from the state government of Uttar Pradesh and, with the support of the BJP, formed a new government, making its leader, Mayawati, the first Dalit ever to become a chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. The alliance, however, was seen by observers as doomed because of political differences.
Conflicts in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir are each the result of centralized power operating in a predominantly heterogeneous society. Although tensions in the two states have important historical roots, they have been fueled by controversy over the policies of India's central government. Opposition is built upon the feeling that political power in New Delhi is inaccessible and unresponsive to local needs. Furthermore, in each case, the Congress (I) leadership has attempted to intervene in the conflicts to advance its partisan interests only to have its intervention backfire and aggravate regional tensions.
The confrontation in Punjab began in 1973 when the Akali Dal issued the Anandpur Sahib Resolution calling for the establishment of a "Sikh Autonomous Region" with its own constitution. It also called for the transfer of Chandigarh, a union territory, to Punjab as the state's capital--promised by the central government in 1970--and demanded that the central government establish a more favorable allocation of river waters used for irrigation. A particular concern was the shared distribution of water from the Beas and Sutlej rivers with neighboring Haryana (see Rivers, ch. 2). The Akali Dal further demanded changes involving greater symbolic recognition of Sikhism. These demands included the recognition of Amritsar, the site of the Sikhs' Golden Temple, as a holy city; exemption from antihijacking regulations to enable Sikhs flying on Indian airlines to wear their kirpan (ceremonial saber); and the passage of the All-India Gurdwara Act to place the management of all gurdwaras in the country under a single administration (see Early History and Tenets, ch. 3).
Akali Dal members were engaged in a heated competition with the Congress (I) over control of the Punjab assembly. It was in this context that the Congress (I) found it advantageous to encourage Sikh fundamentalism. Giani Zail Singh, who was the Congress (I) chief minister in Punjab from 1972 to 1977 and minister of home affairs in the central government from 1980 to 1982, developed links with the fiery Sikh militant Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. By encouraging Bhindranwale, the Congress (I) hoped to reap advantage from sowing division in the already fractious Akali Dal. However, what may have been good for the interests of the Congress (I) turned out to be bad for the country. By the spring of 1984, Bhindranwale and his followers had taken over the Akal Takht (Throne of the Eternal God) shrine facing the Golden Temple and transformed it into a headquarters and armory for Sikh militants. Indira Gandhi sent in the army, which, during a bloody three-day siege, almost destroyed the Akal Takht, did some damage to the Golden Temple, and killed Bhindranwale and hundreds of his followers (see Insurgent Movements and External Subversion, ch. 10). The army's action generated widespread resentment among India's Sikhs. The subsequent assassination of Indira Gandhi by Sikh members of her bodyguard on October 31, 1984, unleashed a wave of riots throughout India in which more than 2,700 Sikhs were killed.
Rajiv Gandhi attempted to put an end to the crisis by signing an agreement with Akali Dal moderate Harchand Singh Longowal in August 1985. The Gandhi-Longowal Accord acquiesced to many Akali Dal demands and called for elections to put an end to central government control over the state government through President's Rule, which had been in effect since October 1983. Although the accord was criticized by Sikh activists as being a sellout, it apparently had widespread support, as evidenced by the public's defiance of the militants' call for a boycott of the ensuing elections and the mandate given to Akali Dal moderates to form a new government. Public support for the Akali Dal government, however, was soon undermined by Rajiv Gandhi's failure to fulfill his commitments, such as the transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab, as enunciated in the Gandhi-Longowal Accord. With the failure to implement the accord, the popularity of the Akali Dal state government led by Surjit Singh Barnala declined, and its internal divisions grew. As a result, its efforts to combat the militants' increasing violence became ineffective. In May 1987, the Punjab assembly was dissolved and replaced with President's Rule.
The violence of Sikh militants spread throughout Punjab during the 1980s. In many cases, activist groups became undisciplined or were taken over by criminals. Armed robbery, extortion, and murder became a way of life. Police actions also became more repressive. The residents of Punjab were caught in a vise of indiscriminate militant and police violence. After an unprecedented five years of President's Rule, the central government gambled by holding elections for Parliament and the state legislative assembly in February 1992. Most Akali Dal groups and militants called for a boycott of the poll, and the election turnout was a record low of 20 percent. Not surprisingly, the Congress (I) emerged victorious, winning twelve of thirteen seats in Parliament and control over the state government. After the elections, the police and paramilitary forces under the leadership of K.P.S. Gill scored a series of successes in infiltrating activist groups and capturing or killing their members. Popular participation in the conventional political process increased; voter turnout for municipal elections in September 1992 and gram panchayats in January 1993 exceeded 70 percent. Although violence diminished during 1993 and 1994, the sources of many of the tensions remained, and resentments among the Sikhs continue to simmer in the mid-1990s.
Ethnic and regional tensions also raged out of control in the strategically sensitive Jammu and Kashmir. The conflict assumes considerable symbolic as well as strategic importance because, as India's only Muslim-majority state, Jammu and Kashmir validates India's national identity as a religiously and culturally diverse society held together by a common history and cultural heritage. The roots of the Kashmir conflict extend at least as far back as 1947 when Maharaja Hari Singh, the princely state's Hindu ruler, decided to cede his domain with its predominantly Muslim population to the Indian Union at a time when Kashmir was under attack by a Muslim paramilitary force supported by Pakistan. Tensions persisted through the mid-1980s. The National Conference, led by Sheikh Abdullah until his death in 1983, first supported the accession to India and its provisions under Article 370 of the constitution for special autonomy, but later made demands for greater autonomy as popular resentment against India's central government began to spread. The status of Kashmir was the cause of two wars between India and Pakistan, in 1947 and 1965, and was an issue in the third war, in 1971 (see The Experience of Wars, ch. 10).
The Kashmir crisis of the 1990s is reflective of trends occurring throughout the Indian polity: the increasing intervention of the central government in local affairs, the resort to coercion to resolve social conflict and maintain social order, and the increasing political assertiveness of the Indian public. The National Conference government, which had been elected in 1983 under the leadership of Farooq Abdullah, son of Sheikh Abdullah, was brought down in 1984 after leaders of the Congress (I) supported Ghulam Mohammad Shah's split of the National Conference and formation of a separate government. The Congress (I) switched its support back to Farooq in 1986, and the National Conference under Farooq's leadership participated in the 1987 state elections in alliance with the Congress (I). The alliance served to discredit Farooq and the National Conference in the eyes of many Kashmiris, and the coalition faced stiff competition from an alliance of Muslim activists under the banner of the Muslim United Front. The National Conference-Congress (I) coalition won the election, but only after creating a popular perception of widespread election rigging. Farooq's government proved to be inept and corrupt, further alienating the Kashmiri public. The activists, feeling that they had been electorally defrauded, incited an increasing number of demonstrations, strikes, bombings, and assassinations.
The problem reached a climax in December 1989 when militants took as hostage the daughter of Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, the minister of home affairs of the newly formed National Front government. When the militants exchanged their hostage for the release of five jailed militant leaders, a jubilant public showed its support for the militants with massive demonstrations in Srinagar, the capital. It became obvious to all that Farooq's government had lost control over the state, and President's Rule was declared. Insurgency broke out as fighting spread between the Kashmiri militants and paramilitary forces. Reports by human rights groups left little doubt that each side had perpetrated gross atrocities and that victims included large numbers of innocent civilians. The issue was further complicated by charges that the insurgents had received sanctuary and support from Pakistan and from movements like the Ekta Yatra (Unity Pilgrimage--a BJP political pilgrimage from the southern tip of India to Srinagar from December 1991 to January 1992).
The conflict raged through 1994 as the government sent in paramilitary and army troops in an effort to break the back of the resistance and convince the Kashmiri public of the futility of the struggle. By then the militants had fragmented into more than 100 groups. The Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, which demands independence from both India and Pakistan, had the widest support, but a number of heavily armed groups, the most prominent being the Hezb-ul Mujahideen, which favored union with Pakistan, also had support. Events offered a glimmer of hope that the crisis might be resolved through negotiation. Earlier, in November 1993, the government had successfully negotiated the settlement of a crisis at the Hazratbal--a Srinagar mosque, which is one of the holiest Muslim shrines in India because it is believed to house a hair of the Prophet Muhammad. The government negotiated the settlement with the All-Party Hurriyat Conference by agreeing to the departure of the occupying militant forces. In April 1994, the leaders of the conference further raised hopes by coming to New Delhi to discuss ways of resolving the conflict with the leaders of non-Muslim communities in Kashmir. The government responded by releasing more moderate activist leaders from prison and beginning preparations for elections. But with tension growing and the destruction in May 1995 by fire of a Sufi mausoleum and mosque in the town of Charar Sharif--each side blamed the other for the conflagration--the central government postponed plans for elections. This event posed new impediments to resolving the conflict.
The kindling of Hindu-Muslim tensions during the 1990s was neither a reawakening of ancient hatreds nor a consequence of religious fundamentalism. Rather it occurred because of the interaction between the various socioeconomic developments in India during the 1980s and 1990s and the strategies and tactics of India's politicians.
Rapid urbanization has uprooted individuals from their previous occupations and communities and placed many in competition for new livelihoods. Newcomers who succeed frequently arouse resentment, and many riots have targeted successful Muslim merchants, business owners, and Muslim returnees from the Persian Gulf states, where they often earn incomes many times higher than they would have earned in India. High-caste Hindus, fearing the loss of their social prestige, have provided an important social base for Hindu militancy. Hard-pressed members of these high-caste groups have been an especially receptive constituency for appeals to curtail the "special privileges of pampered minorities." In addition, the economy was unable to provide jobs for all who wanted to enter the labor market, and the 1980s and early 1990s saw an increase in the ranks of the unemployed. Some of the unemployed have become involved in gangs whose strong-arm tactics are used by politicians wishing to intimidate or incite communal tensions. Other unemployed youths join militant religious organizations like the Bajrang Dal (Party of the Adamani [Diamond]-Bodied, a reference to Bajrang, a Hindu god) and Shiv Sena. The militant groups provide security for temples and members of their religion but are also sources of communal violence.
Changes in the nature of India's political process also have contributed to the rise of religious tensions. Analysts from a variety of perspectives have commented on the increasing willingness of India's politicians to exploit religious and ethnic tensions for short-term political gain, regardless of their longer-term social consequences. Political scientist Rajni Kothari, for example, charges that there has been a general decline in the morality of Indian politicians. He alleges that politicians play a "numbers game," in which they appeal to chauvinistic caste and religious sentiments to win elections, despite the longer-term social tensions that their campaigns create. The support of the Congress for Article 370 in the constitution, which provides a special status for the Muslim majority state of Jammu and Kashmir, and the measures taken to provide India's Muslim community with distinctive rights have contributed to the popular resonance of the BJP's charges that the Congress (I) stands for minority appeasement and "pseudo-secularism." The violence of religious militants in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir has also contributed to sentiment among the Hindu majority that religious minorities employ aggressive tactics to win special concessions from the government.
The 1985 Shah Bano controversy put state-religion relations in the forefront of the political agenda. Shah Bano was a seventy-three-year-old Muslim woman from Madhya Pradesh who filed for alimony after being divorced according to Muslim law by her husband after forty-three years of marriage. The Supreme Court ruled in Shah Bano's favor, creating outrage among sectors of the Muslim community who felt that the sharia (Islamic law), which does not provide for alimony, had been slighted. In apparent capitulation to this important political constituency, Rajiv Gandhi pushed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Bill, which removed Muslim divorce cases from India's civil law and recognized the jurisdiction of sharia. The legislation, in turn, enraged large sectors of Hindus, whose personal conduct is judged under India's secular civil code.
Shortly thereafter, in a ploy that Rajiv Gandhi may have misguidedly conceived to placate Hindu militants, the courts ruled that the doors of the Babri Masjid should be opened to Hindu worshipers. The VHP was joined by the BJP in a campaign to reclaim the disputed birthplace of Ram. In 1989 the VHP launched a campaign encouraging Hindu devotees from across India each to bring a brick from their villages to Ayodhya. Outbreaks of violence between Hindus and Muslims spread as the campaign progressed, and the BJP successfully prevailed upon the VHP to withdraw the campaign before the 1989 elections. Tensions heated up again in the summer of 1990 when BJP leader Advani embarked on a 10,000-kilometer tour of the country in a Toyota van decorated to resemble the mythological chariot of Ram. Advani's arrest did not prevent clashes at Ayodhya between paramilitary forces and Hindu activists; the clashes sparked a wave of communal violence and left more than 300 dead.
The Ramjanmabhumi Temple mobilization appeared to pay substantial dividends in terms of the BJP's remarkable growth of support in North India in the 1991 elections, and the VHP and BJP kept the issue alive despite the fact that their actions put tremendous pressure on the newly elected BJP state government in Uttar Pradesh. Its July 1992 kar sewa (mass mobilization force work service) to build the temple ended peacefully only through last-minute negotiations with Prime Minister Rao; Rao had been promised by BJP leader L.K. Advani that the December 6, 1992, kar sewa would also be peaceful. Despite Advani's promise, thousands of Hindu activists broke through a police cordon and destroyed the Babri Masjid (see Public Worship, ch. 3). This event and the subsequent riots throughout the country left no doubt that tensions between Hindus and Muslims had reached a high pitch.
During the following week, riots spread throughout the countryside, killing some 1,700 people. Riots broke out again in Bombay from January 9 through January 11, killing 500 more people. In March 1993, the Bombay Stock Exchange and other prominent places in the city were shaken, and some 200 people were killed by bombs that the central government alleges were placed by members of India's criminal underworld at the behest of Pakistan's intelligence service. The manipulation of India's religious tensions by militants, criminals, and politicians highlighted the extent to which religious sentiments in India had become an object of exploitation. Religious tensions eased somewhat and incidents of communal violence declined during the remainder of 1993 and through 1994, but the persistence of the social conditions that gave birth to violence and the continued opportunism of India's politicians suggest that the relative peace may be only an interlude.
Corruption not only has become a pervasive aspect of Indian politics but also has become an increasingly important factor in Indian elections. The extensive role of the Indian state in providing services and promoting economic development has always created the opportunity for using public resources for private benefit. As government regulation of business was extended in the 1960s and corporate donations were banned in 1969, trading economic favors for under-the-table contributions to political parties became an increasingly widespread political practice. During the 1980s and 1990s, corruption became associated with the occupants of the highest echelons of India's political system. Rajiv Gandhi's government was rocked by scandals, as was the government of P.V. Narasimha Rao. Politicians have become so closely identified with corruption in the public eye that a Times of India poll of 1,554 adults in six metropolitan cities found that 98 percent of the public is convinced that politicians and ministers are corrupt, with 85 percent observing that corruption is on the increase.
The prominence of political corruption in the 1990s is hardly unique to India. Other countries also have experienced corruption that has rocked their political systems. What is remarkable about India is the persistent anti-incumbent sentiment among its electorate. Since Indira's victory in her 1971 "garibi hatao " election, only one ruling party has been reelected to power in the central government. In an important sense, the exception proves the rule because the Congress (I) won reelection in 1984 in no small measure because the electorate saw in Rajiv Gandhi a "Mr. Clean" who would lead a new generation of politicians in cleansing the political system. Anti-incumbent sentiment is just as strong at the state level, where the ruling parties of all political persuasions in India's major states lost eleven of thirteen legislative assembly elections held from 1991 through spring 1995.
Compared with many other developing countries, the Indian press has flourished since independence and exercises a large degree of independence. British colonialism allowed for the development of a tradition of freedom of the press, and many of India's great English-language newspapers and some of its Indian-language press were begun during the nineteenth century. As India became independent, ownership of India's leading English-language newspapers was transferred from British to Indian business groups, and the fact that most English-language newspapers have the backing of large business houses has contributed to their independence from the government. The press has experienced impressive growth since independence. In 1950 there were 214 daily newspapers, with forty-four in English and the rest in Indian languages. By 1990 the number of daily newspapers had grown to 2,856, with 209 in English and 2,647 in indigenous languages. The expansion of literacy and the spread of consumerism during the 1980s fueled the rapid growth of news weeklies and other periodicals. By 1993 India had 35,595 newspapers--of which 3,805 were dailies--and other periodicals. Although the majority of publications are in indigenous languages, the English-language press, which has widespread appeal to the expanding middle class, has a wide multicity circulation throughout India.
There are four major publishing groups in India, each of which controls national and regional English-language and vernacular publications. They are the Times of India Group, the Indian Express Group, the Hindustan Times Group, and the Anandabazar Patrika Group. The Times of India is India's largest English-language daily, with a circulation of 656,000 published in six cities. The Indian Express , with a daily circulation of 519,000, is published in seventeen cities. There also are seven other daily newspapers with circulations of between 134,000 and 477,000, all in English and all competitive with one another. Indian-language newspapers also enjoy large circulations but usually on a statewide or citywide basis. For example, the Malayalam-language daily Malayala Manorama circulates 673,000 copies in Kerala; the Hindi-language Dainik Jagran circulates widely in Uttar Pradesh and New Delhi, with 580,000 copies per day; Punjab Kesari , also published in Hindi and available throughout Punjab and New Delhi, has a daily circulation of 562,000; and the Anandabazar Patrika , published in Calcutta in Bengali, has a daily circulation of 435,000. There are also numerous smaller publications throughout the nation. The combined circulation of India's newspapers and periodicals is in the order of 60 million, published daily in more than ninety languages.
India has more than forty domestic news agencies. The Express News Service, the Press Trust of India, and the United News of India are among the major news agencies. They are headquartered in Delhi, Bombay, and New Delhi, respectively, and employ foreign correspondents.
Although freedom of the press in India is the legal norm--it is constitutionally guaranteed--the scope of this freedom has often been contested by the government. Rigid press censorship was imposed during the Emergency starting in 1975 but quickly retracted in 1977. The government has continued, however, to exercise more indirect controls. Government advertising accounts for as much as 50 percent of all advertisements in Indian newspapers, providing a monetary incentive to limit harsh criticism of the administration. Until 1992, when government regulation of access to newsprint was liberalized, controls on the distribution of newsprint could also be used to reward favored publications and threaten those that fell into disfavor. In 1988, at a time when the Indian press was publishing investigative reports about corruption and abuse of power in government, Parliament passed a tough defamation bill that mandated prison sentences for offending journalists. Vociferous protests from journalists and opposition party leaders ultimately forced the government to withdraw the bill. Since the late 1980s, the independence of India's press has been bolstered by the liberalization of government economic policy and the increase of private-sector advertising provided by the growth of India's private sector and the spread of consumerism.Broadcast Media
The national television (Doordarshan) and radio (All India Radio, or Akashwani) networks are state-owned and managed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Their news reporting customarily presents the government's point of view. For example, coverage of the 1989 election campaign blatantly favored the government of Rajiv Gandhi, and autonomy of the electronic media became a political issue. V.P. Singh's National Front government sponsored the Prasar Bharati (Indian Broadcasting) Act, which Parliament considered in 1990, to provide greater autonomy to Doordarshan and All India Radio. The changes that resulted were limited. The bill provided for the establishment of an autonomous corporation to run Doordarshan and All India Radio. The corporation was to operate under a board of governors to be in charge of appointments and policy and a broadcasting council to respond to complaints. However, the legislation required that the corporation prepare and submit its budget within the framework of the central budget and stipulated that the personnel of the new broadcasting corporation be career civil servants to facilitate continued government control. In the early 1990s, increasing competition from television broadcasts transmitted via satellite appeared the most effective manner of limiting the progovernment bias of the government-controlled electronic media.
Since the 1980s, India has experienced a rapid proliferation of television broadcasting that has helped shape popular culture and the course of politics. Although the first television program was broadcast in 1959, the expansion of television did not begin in earnest until the extremely popular telecast of the Ninth Asian Games, which were held in New Delhi in 1982. Realizing the popular appeal and consequent influence of television broadcasting, the government undertook an expansion that by 1990 was planned to provide television access to 90 percent of the population. In 1993, about 169 million people were estimated to have watched Indian television each week, and, by 1994, it was reported that there were some 47 million households with televisions. There also is a growing selection of satellite transmission and cable services available.
Television programming was initially kept tightly under the control of the government, which embarked on a self-conscious effort to construct and propagate a cultural idea of the Indian nation. This goal is especially clear in the broadcasts of such megaseries as the Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata . In addition to the effort at nation-building, the politicians of India's ruling party have not hesitated to use television to build political support. In fact, the political abuse of Indian television led to demands to increase the autonomy of Doordarshan; these demands ultimately resulted in support for the Prasar Bharati Act.
The 1990s have brought a radical transformation of television in India. Transnational satellite broadcasting made its debut in January 1991, when owners of satellite dishes--initially mostly at major hotels--began receiving Cable News Network (CNN) coverage of the Persian Gulf War. Three months later, Star TV began broadcasting via satellite tv. Its fare initially included serials such as "The Bold and the Beautiful" and MTV programs. Satellite broadcasting spread rapidly through India's cities as local entrepreneurs erected dishes to receive signals and transmitted them through local cable systems. After its October 1992 launch, Zee TV offered stiff competition to Star TV. However, the future of Star TV was bolstered by billionaire Rupert Murdock, who acquired the network for US$525 million in July 1993. CNN International, part of the Turner Broadcasting System, was slated to start broadcasting entertainment programs, including top Hollywood films, in 1995. See <"http://www.satisfied-mind.com/directv/">www.satisfied-mind.com/directv/for information about Satellite TV, DirecTV and Dish Network.
Competition from the satellite stations brought radical change to Doordarshan by cutting its audience and threatening its advertising revenues at a time when the government was pressuring it to pay for expenditures from internal revenues. In response, Doordarshan decided in 1993 to start five new channels in addition to its original National Channel. Programming was radically transformed, and controversial news shows, soap operas, and coverage of high-fashion events proliferated. Of the new Doordarshan channels, however, only the Metro Channel, which carries MTV music videos and other popular shows, has survived in the face of the new trend for talk programs that engage in a potpourri of racy topics.
Political participation in India has been transformed in many ways since the 1960s. New social groups have entered the political arena and begun to use their political resources to shape the political process. Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, previously excluded from politics because of their position at the bottom of India's social hierarchy, have begun to take full advantage of the opportunities presented by India's democracy. Women and environmentalists constitute new political categories that transcend traditional distinctions. The spread of social movements and voluntary organizations has shown that despite the difficulties of India's political parties and state institutions, India's democratic tendency continues to thrive.
An important aspect of the rise of civil society is the proliferation of voluntary or nongovernmental organizations. Estimates of their number ranged from 50,000 to 100,000 in 1993. To some extent, the rise of voluntary organizations has been sponsored by the Indian state. For instance, the central government's Seventh Five-Year Plan of fiscal years (FY--see Glossary) 1985-89 recognized the contributions of voluntary organizations in accelerating development and substantially increased their funding. A 1987 survey of 1,273 voluntary agencies reported that 47 percent received some form of funding from the central government. Voluntary organizations also have thrived on foreign donations, which in 1991-92 contributed more than US$400 million to some 15,000 organizations. Some nongovernmental organizations cooperate with the central government in a manner that augments its capacity to implement public policy, such as poverty alleviation, for example, in a decentralized manner. Other nongovernmental organizations also serve as watchdogs, attempting to pressure government agencies to uphold the spirit of the state's laws and implement policies in accord with their stated objectives. Nongovernmental organizations also endeavor to raise the political consciousness of various social groups, encouraging them to demand their rights and challenge social inequities. Finally, some social groups serve as innovators, experimenting with new approaches to solving social problems.
Beginning in the 1970s, activists began to form broad-based social movements, which proved powerful advocates for interests that they perceived as neglected by the state and political parties. Perhaps the most powerful has been the farmers' movement, which has organized hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in New Delhi and has pressured the government for higher prices on agricultural commodities and more investment in rural areas. Members of Scheduled Castes led by the Dalit Panthers have moved to rearticulate the identity of former Untouchables. Women from an array of diverse organizations now interact in conferences and exchange ideas in order to define and promote women's issues. Simultaneously, an environmental movement has developed that has attempted to compel the government to be more responsive to environmental concerns and has attempted to redefine the concept of "development" to include respect for indigenous cultures and environmental sustainability.
With its highly competitive elections, relatively independent judiciary, boisterous media, and thriving civil society, India continues to possess one of the most democratic political systems of all developing countries. Nevertheless, Indian democracy is under stress. Political power within the Indian state has become increasingly centralized at a time when India's civil society has become mobilized along lines that reflect the country's remarkable social diversity. The country's political parties, which might aggregate the country's diverse social interests in a way that would ensure the responsiveness of state authority, are in crisis. The Congress (I) has been in a state of decline, as reflected in the erosion of its traditional coalition of support and the implication of Congress (I) governments in a series of scandals. The party has failed to generate an enlightened leadership that might rejuvenate it and replace the increasingly discredited Nehruvian socialism with a novel programmatic appeal. The Congress (I)'s split in May 1995 added a new impediment to efforts to reinvigorate the party.
The BJP, although it has a stronger party organization, in 1995 had yet to find a way to transcend the limits of its militant Hindu nationalism and fashion a program that would appeal to diverse social groups and enable it to build a majority coalition in India. The Janata Dal continued to suffer from lack of leadership, inadequate resources, and incessant factionalism. As its bases of power shrink, it stood in danger of being reduced to a party with only a few regional strongholds. As regional groupings and members of the lower echelons of India's caste system become more assertive, regional and caste parties may play a more prominent role in India's political system. At this point, however, it is difficult to envision how they might stabilize India's political system.
The unresponsiveness of India's political parties and government has encouraged the Indian public to mobilize through nongovernmental organizations and social movements. The consequent development of India's civil society has made Indians less confident of the transformative power of the state and more confident of the power of the individual and local community. This development is shifting a larger share of the initiative for resolving India's social problems from the state to society. Fashioning party and state institutions that will accommodate the diverse interests that are now mobilized in Indian society is the major challenge confronting the Indian polity in the 1990s.
INDIA'S FOREIGN RELATIONS reflect a traditional policy of nonalignment (see Glossary), the exigencies of domestic economic reform and development, and the changing post-Cold War international environment. India's relations with the world have evolved considerably since the British colonial period (1757-1947), when a foreign power monopolized external relations and defense relations. On independence in 1947, few Indians had experience in making or conducting foreign policy. However, the country's oldest political party, the Indian National Congress (the Congress--see Glossary), had established a small foreign department in 1925 to make overseas contacts and to publicize its freedom struggle. From the late 1920s on, Jawaharlal Nehru, who had the most long-standing interest in world affairs among independence leaders, formulated the Congress stance on international issues. As a member of the interim government in 1946, Nehru articulated India's approach to the world.
During Nehru's tenure as prime minister (1947-64), he achieved a domestic consensus on the definition of Indian national interests and foreign policy goals--building a unified and integrated nation-state based on secular, democratic principles; defending Indian territory and protecting its security interests; guaranteeing India's independence internationally through nonalignment; and promoting national economic development unencumbered by overreliance on any country or group of countries. These objectives were closely related to the determinants of India's foreign relations: the historical legacy of South Asia; India's geopolitical position and security requirements; and India's economic needs as a large developing nation. From 1947 until the late 1980s, New Delhi's foreign policy goals enabled it to achieve some successes in carving out an independent international role. Regionally, India was the predominant power because of its size, its population (the world's second-largest after China), and its growing military strength. However, relations with its neighbors, Pakistan in particular, were often tense and fraught with conflict. In addition, globally India's nonaligned stance was not a viable substitute for the political and economic role it wished to play.
India's international influence varied over the years after independence. Indian prestige and moral authority were high in the 1950s and facilitated the acquisition of developmental assistance from both East and West. Although the prestige stemmed from India's nonaligned stance, the nation was unable to prevent Cold War politics from becoming intertwined with interstate relations in South Asia. In the 1960s and 1970s, New Delhi's international position among developed and developing countries faded in the course of wars with China and Pakistan, disputes with other countries in South Asia, and India's attempt to balance Pakistan's support from the United States and China by signing the Treaty of Peace, Friendship, and Cooperation with the Soviet Union in August 1971. Although India obtained substantial Soviet military and economic aid, which helped to strengthen the nation, India's influence was undercut regionally and internationally by the perception that its friendship with the Soviet Union prevented a more forthright condemnation of the Soviet presence in Afghanistan. In the 1980s, New Delhi improved relations with the United States, other developed countries, and China while continuing close ties with the Soviet Union. Relations with its South Asian neighbors, especially Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Nepal, occupied much of the energies of the Ministry of External Affairs.
In the 1990s, India's economic problems and the demise of the bipolar world political system have forced New Delhi to reassess its foreign policy and to adjust its foreign relations. Previous policies proved inadequate to cope with the serious domestic and international problems facing India. The end of the Cold War gutted the core meaning of nonalignment and left Indian foreign policy without significant direction. The hard, pragmatic considerations of the early 1990s were still viewed within the nonaligned framework of the past, but the disintegration of the Soviet Union removed much of India's international leverage, for which relations with Russia and the other post-Soviet states could not compensate.
Pragmatic security, economic considerations, and domestic political influences have reinforced New Delhi's reliance on the United States and other developed countries; caused New Delhi to abandon its anti-Israeli policy in the Middle East; and resulted in the courtship of the Central Asian republics and the newly industrializing economies of East and Southeast Asia. Although India shares the concerns of Russia, China, and many members of the Nonaligned Movement (see Glossary) about the preeminent position of the United States and other developed countries, different national interests and perceptions make it improbable that India can turn cooperation with these countries to its advantage on most international issues. Furthermore, although Cold War politics have ceased to be a factor in South Asia, the most intractable problems in India's relations with Pakistan--conflict over Kashmir, support for separatists, and nuclear and ballistic missile programs--still face the two countries.Role of the Prime Minister
Nehru set the pattern for the formation of Indian foreign policy: a strong personal role for the prime minister but a weak institutional structure. Nehru served concurrently as prime minister and minister of external affairs; he made all major foreign policy decisions himself after consulting with his advisers and then entrusted the conduct of international affairs to senior members of the Indian Foreign Service. His successors continued to exercise considerable control over India's international dealings, although they generally appointed separate ministers of external affairs.
India's second prime minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri (1964-66), expanded the Office of Prime Minister (sometimes called the Prime Minister's Secretariat) and enlarged its powers (see The Executive, ch. 8). By the 1970s, the Office of the Prime Minister had become the de facto coordinator and supraministry of the Indian government. The enhanced role of the office strengthened the prime minister's control over foreign policy making at the expense of the Ministry of External Affairs. Advisers in the office provided channels of information and policy recommendations in addition to those offered by the Ministry of External Affairs. A subordinate part of the office--the Research and Analysis Wing--functioned in ways that significantly expanded the information available to the prime minister and his advisers. The Research and Analysis Wing gathered intelligence, provided intelligence analysis to the Office of the Prime Minister, and conducted covert operations abroad.
The prime minister's control and reliance on personal advisers in the Office of the Prime Minister was particularly strong under the tenures of Indira Gandhi (1966-77 and 1980-84) and her son, Rajiv (1984-89), who succeeded her, and weaker during the periods of coalition governments under Morarji Desai (1977-79), Viswanath Pratap (V.P.) Singh (1989-90), Chandra Shekhar (1990-91), and P.V. Narasimha Rao (starting in June 1991). Although observers find it difficult to determine whether the locus of decision-making authority on any particular issue lies with the Ministry of External Affairs, the Council of Ministers, the Office of the Prime Minister, or the prime minister himself, nevertheless in the 1990s India's prime ministers retain their dominance in the conduct of foreign relations.Ministry of External Affairs
The Ministry of External Affairs is the governmental body most concerned with foreign affairs, with responsibility for some aspects of foreign policy making, actual implementation of policy, and daily conduct of international relations. The ministry's duties include providing timely information and analysis to the prime minister and minister of external affairs, recommending specific measures when necessary, planning policy for the future, and maintaining communications with foreign missions in New Delhi. In 1994 the ministry administered 149 diplomatic missions abroad, which were staffed largely by members of the Indian Foreign Service. The ministry is headed by the minister of external affairs, who holds cabinet rank and is assisted by a deputy minister and a foreign secretary, and secretaries of state from the Indian Foreign Service.
In 1994 the total cadre strength of the Indian Foreign Service numbered 3,490, of which some 1,890 held posts abroad and 1,600 served at the Ministry of External Affairs headquarters in New Delhi. Members of the Indian Foreign Service are recruited through annual written and oral competitive examinations and come from a great variety of regional, economic, and social backgrounds. The Foreign Service Training Institute provides a wide range of courses for foreign service officers, including a basic professional course, a comprehensive course in diplomacy and international relations for foreign service recruits, a refresher course for commercial representatives, and foreign language training.
The Ministry of External Affairs has thirteen territorial divisions, each covering a large area of the world, such as Eastern Europe and the post-Soviet states, or smaller areas on India's periphery, such as Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan. The ministry also has functional divisions dealing with external publicity, protocol, consular affairs, Indians abroad, the United Nations (UN) and other international organizations, and international conferences. Two of the eighteen specialized divisions and units of the ministry are of special note. The Policy Planning and Research Division conducts research and prepares briefs and background papers for top policy makers and ministry officials. The briefs cover wide-ranging issues relating to India's foreign policy and role in the changing international environment, and background papers provide information on issues concerning international developments. The Economic Division has the important task of handling foreign economic relations. This division augments its activities to reflect changes in the government's economic policy and the international economic environment (see Liberalization in the Early 1990s, ch. 6). In 1990 the division established the Economic Coordination Unit to assess the impact on India of the Persian Gulf crisis arising from Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, changes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and formation of a single market in the European Economic Community (after 1993 the European Union), as well as to promote foreign investment. The Economic Division also runs India's foreign aid programs, including the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme, the Special Commonwealth African Assistance Programme, and aid to individual developing countries in South Asia and elsewhere. The ministry runs the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, which arranges exhibits, visits, and cultural exchanges with other countries and oversees the activities of foreign cultural centers in India.
The Ministry of External Affairs had a budget of Rs8.8 billion (for value of the rupee--see Glossary) for fiscal year (FY--see Glossary) 1994. The largest single expense was the maintenance of missions abroad: Rs3.8 billion, or close to 44 percent of the ministry's expenditures. Foreign aid totaled Rs1.3 billion, or 15.1 percent of the ministry's expenditures. The single largest recipient--as in most previous years--was Bhutan (Rs690 million), whose government operations and development are heavily subsidized by India.Other Government Organizations
Besides the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of External Affairs, there are other government agencies that have foreign policy-making roles. In theory, the ministers of defence, commerce, and finance provide input to foreign policy decisions discussed in cabinet meetings, but their influence in practical terms is overshadowed by the predominant position of the prime minister and his advisers. The armed forces are removed from policy making and have influence only through the minister of defence, to whom they are subordinate (see Organization and Equipment of the Armed Forces, ch. 10).
Only a limited role in foreign policy making is provided for India's bicameral Parliament (see The Legislature, ch. 8). Negotiated treaties and international agreements become legally binding on the state but are not part of domestic law unless passed by an act of Parliament, which also has no say in the appointment of diplomats and other government representatives dealing with foreign affairs. For the most part, because of the widespread domestic support for India's foreign policy, Parliament has endorsed government actions or sought information. The most important official link between Parliament and the executive in the mid-1990s is the Committee on External Affairs of the Lok Sabha (House of the People), the lower chamber of Parliament. The committee meets regularly and draws its membership from many parties. Usually it has served either as a forum for government briefings or as a deliberative body.The Role of Political and Interest Groups
Institutional connections between public opinion and foreign policy making are tenuous in the mid-1990s, as they have been since independence. Although international issues receive considerable attention in the media and in academic circles, the views expressed by journalists and scholars in these publications have little impact on foreign policy making. Interest groups concerned with foreign relations exist inside and outside Parliament but are less organized or articulate than in most other democracies. These organizations include such business groups as the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce International; religious groups, especially among Muslims; and various friendship or cultural societies promoting closer ties with specific countries. Among the latter are informal groups known as the "Russian" and "American" lobbies.
Opposition political parties often have more effectively articulated differing views regarding foreign policy, but even these views had little impact on policy making until the 1990s. Other than the Congress (I)--(I for Indira), only the communist parties, the Janata Party, and the Jana Sangh and one of its successors, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP--Indian People's Party), developed coherent platforms on foreign policy (see Political Parties, ch. 8). After the mid-1950s, the communist parties were broadly supportive of Indian foreign policy. At the beginning of Janata Party rule (1977-79), Prime Minister Desai promised to return to "genuine nonalignment." However, security considerations forced Desai and his minister of external affairs, Jana Sangh stalwart Atal Behari Vajpayee, to adhere to the foreign policy path carved out by the Congress (I)--nonalignment with a pro-Soviet orientation. BJP foreign policy positions differed most strongly from those of the Congress (I). The BJP criticized nonalignment and advocated a more vigorous use of India's power to defend national interests from erosion at the hands of Pakistan and China. The BJP also favored the overt acquisition of nuclear weapons. By the early 1990s, the rising political fortunes of the BJP had an impact on the conduct of foreign policy, forcing the coalition government of V.P. Singh, which depended on BJP support, to take a hard line in the Kashmir crisis in 1990. Pressure from the Congress (I) also had an impact on India's response to the Persian Gulf crisis (see Middle East; Central Asia, this ch.).
Foreign Relations with ...
Relations with Pakistan have demanded a high proportion of India's international energies and undoubtedly will continue to do so. India and Pakistan have divergent national ideologies and have been unable to establish a mutually acceptable power equation in South Asia. The national ideologies of pluralism, democracy, and secularism for India and of Islam for Pakistan grew out of the preindependence struggle between the Congress and the All-India Muslim League (Muslim League--see Glossary), and in the early 1990s the line between domestic and foreign politics in India's relations with Pakistan remained blurred. Because great-power competition--between the United States and the Soviet Union and between the Soviet Union and China--became intertwined with the conflicts between India and Pakistan, India was unable to attain its goal of insulating South Asia from global rivalries. This superpower involvement enabled Pakistan to use external force in the face of India's superior endowments of population and resources.
The most difficult problem in relations between India and Pakistan since partition in August 1947 has been their dispute over Kashmir. Pakistan's leaders did not accept the legality of the Instrument of Accession of Kashmir to India, and undeclared war broke out in October 1947 (see The Experience of Wars, ch. 10). It was the first of three conflicts between the two countries. Pakistan's representatives ever since have argued that the people of Kashmir should be allowed to exercise their right to self-determination through a plebiscite, as promised by Nehru and required by UN Security Council resolutions in 1948 and 1949. The inconclusive fighting led to a UN-arranged cease-fire starting on January 1, 1949. On July 18, 1949, the two sides signed the Karachi Agreement establishing a cease-fire line that was to be supervised by the UN. The demarcation left Srinagar and almost 139,000 square kilometers under Indian control and 83,807 square kilometers under Pakistani control. Of these two areas, China occupied 37,555 square kilometers in India's Ladakh District (part of which is known as Aksai Chin) in 1962 and Pakistan ceded, in effect, 5,180 square kilometers in the Karakoram area to China when the two countries demarcated their common border in 1961-65, leaving India with 101,387 square kilometers and Pakistan with 78,387 square kilometers. Starting in January 1949, and still in place in 1995, the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan was tasked with supervising the cease-fire in Kashmir. The group comprises thirty-eight observers--from Belgium, Chile, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Norway, Sweden, and Uruguay--who rotate their headquarters every six months between Srinagar (summer) and Rawalpindi, Pakistan (winter).
In 1952 the elected and overwhelmingly Muslim Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir, led by the popular Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, voted in favor of confirming accession to India. Thereafter, India regarded this vote as an adequate expression of popular will and demurred on holding a plebiscite. After 1953 Jammu and Kashmir was identified as standing for the secular, pluralistic, and democratic principles of the Indian polity. Nehru refused to discuss the subject bilaterally until 1963, when India, under pressure from the United States and Britain, engaged in six rounds of secret talks with Pakistan on "Kashmir and other related issues." These negotiations failed, as did the 1964 attempt at mediation made by Abdullah, who recently had been released from a long detention by the Indian government because of his objections to Indian control.
Armed infiltrators from Pakistan crossed the cease-fire line, and the number of skirmishes between Indian and Pakistani troops increased in the summer of 1965. Starting on August 5, 1965, India alleged, Pakistani forces began to infiltrate the Indian-controlled portion of Jammu and Kashmir. India made a countermove in late August, and by September 1, 1965, the second conflict had fully erupted as Pakistan launched an attack across the international line of control in southwest Jammu and Kashmir. Indian forces retaliated on September 6 in Pakistan's Punjab Province and prevailed over Pakistan's apparent superiority in tanks and aircraft. A cease-fire called by the UN Security Council on September 23 was observed by both sides. At Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in January 1966, the belligerents agreed to restore the status quo ante and to resolve outstanding issues by negotiation.
The third war between India and Pakistan, in December 1971, centered in the east over the secession of East Pakistan (which became Bangladesh), but it also included engagements in Kashmir and elsewhere on the India-West Pakistan front. India's military victory was complete. The independence of Bangladesh was widely interpreted in India--but not in Pakistan--as an ideological victory disproving the "Two Nations Theory" pushed by the Muslim League and that led to partition in 1947. At Shimla (Simla), Himachal Pradesh, on July 2, 1972, Indira Gandhi and Pakistan's President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto signed the Simla Accord by which India would return all personnel and captured territory in the west and the two countries would "settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations." External bodies, including the UN, were excluded from the process. The fighting had resulted in the capture of each other's territory at various points along the cease-fire line, but the Simla Accord defined a new line of control that deviated in only minor ways from the 1949 cease-fire line. The two sides agreed not to alter the actual line of control unilaterally and promised to respect it "without prejudice to the recognized position of either side." Both sides further undertook to "refrain from the threat or use of force in violation of the line."
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Jammu and Kashmir prospered under a virtually autonomous government led first by Sheikh Abdullah and then by his son Farooq Abdullah. In the summer of 1984, differences between Srinagar and New Delhi led to the dismissal of Farooq's government by highly questionable means. Kashmir once again became an irritant in bilateral relations. Indian diplomats consistently accused Pakistan of trying to "internationalize" the Kashmir dispute in violation of the Simla Accord.
In the mid- to late 1980s, the political situation in Kashmir became increasingly unstable. In March 1986, New Delhi invoked President's Rule to remove Farooq's successor, Ghulam Mohammed Shah, as chief minister, and replace his rule with that of Governor Jagmohan, who had been appointed by the central government in 1984. In state elections held in 1987, Farooq's political party, the National Conference, forged an alliance with Rajiv Gandhi's Congress (I), which won a majority in the state elections. Farooq's government failed to deal with Kashmir's economic problems and the endemic corruption of its public institutions, providing fertile ground for militant Kashmiris who demanded either independence or association with Pakistan.
A rising spiral of unrest, demonstrations, armed attacks by Kashmiri separatists, and armed suppression by Indian security forces started in 1988 and was still occurring in the mid-1990s. New Delhi charged Islamabad (Pakistan's capital) with assisting insurgents in Jammu and Kashmir, and Prime Minister V.P. Singh warned that India should be psychologically prepared for war. In Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto stated that Pakistan was willing to fight a "thousand-year war" for control of Kashmir. Under pressure from the United States, the Soviet Union, and China to avoid a military conflict and solve their dispute under the terms of the Simla Accord, India and Pakistan backed off in May 1990 and engaged in a series of talks on confidence-building measures for the rest of the year. Tensions reached new heights in the early and mid-1990s with increasing internal unrest in Jammu and Kashmir, charges of human rights abuses, and repeated clashes between Indian paramilitary forces and Kashmiri militants, allegedly armed with Pakistani-supplied weapons (see Political Issues, ch. 8; Insurgent Movements and External Subversion, ch. 10).
A concurrent irritant related to the Kashmir dispute was the confrontation over the Siachen Glacier near the Karakoram Pass, which is located in northeast Jammu and Kashmir. In 1984, Indian officials, citing Pakistan's "cartographic aggression" extending the line of control northeast toward the Karakoram Pass, contended that Pakistan intended to occupy the Siachen Glacier in order to stage an attack into Indian-controlled Kashmir. After New Delhi airlifted troops into the western parts of the Saltoro Mountains, Islamabad deployed troops opposite them. Both sides maintained 5,000 troops in temperatures averaging -40°C. The estimated cost for India was about 10 percent of the annual defense budget for FY 1992. After several skirmishes between the opposing troops, negotiations to resolve this confrontation began with five rounds of talks between 1986 and 1989. After a three-year hiatus because of tensions caused by the other Kashmir conflict, a sixth round of talks was held in November 1992. Some progress was made on the details of an agreement. In March 1994, Indian diplomats garnered enough support at the UN Human Rights Commission to force Pakistan to withdraw a resolution charging India with human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir. The two sides were encouraged to resolve their dispute through bilateral talks.
After the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979 and Indira Gandhi returned to power in 1980, she quickly dispatched a special emissary to assure Pakistani president General Mohammad Zia ul Haq that he could remove as many divisions as he wished from the Indian border without fear of any advantage being taken by India and suggested talks on reduction of force levels. Indian officials worked hard to prevent Zia from using the Afghan crisis as an opportunity to alter the regional balance of power by acquiring advanced weapons from the United States. In addition, Indira Gandhi attempted to avoid antagonizing the Soviet Union, democratic elements in Pakistan, and the substantial anti-Pakistan lobby within India. These largely secret efforts culminated in the visit of Minister of External Affairs P.V. Narasimha Rao to Pakistan in June 1981, during which time he declared publicly that India was "unequivocally committed to respect Pakistan's national unity, territorial integrity, and sovereign equality" as well as its right to obtain arms for self-defense.
Despite the setback suffered when the United States and Pakistan announced a new security and military assistance program, regular meetings took place between high Indian and Pakistani officials. These meetings were institutionalized in late 1982 in the Indo-Pakistan Joint Commission, which included subcommissions for trade, economics, information, and travel. Indira Gandhi also received Zia on November 1, 1982, in New Delhi, and during their meeting they authorized their foreign ministers and foreign secretaries to proceed with talks leading to the establishment of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC--see Glossary).
In the mid- and late 1980s, India-Pakistan relations settled into a pattern of ups and downs. Despite the signing of an economic and trade agreement, little progress was made in concluding a comprehensive, long-term economic agreement to have nondiscriminatory bilateral trade. In addition, New Delhi charged Islamabad with arming and training Sikh terrorists in Punjab. The government's 1984 White Paper on the Punjab Agitation stated that India's strength, unity, and secularism were targets of attack. The December 1985 visit of Zia to India, during which both sides agreed not to attack each other's nuclear facilities, ushered in a brief phase of cordiality, in which another agreement expanding trade was signed. The cordiality evaporated in early 1986, with further Indian unhappiness over Pakistan's alleged interference in Punjab and the bungled Pakistani handling of the terrorist seizure of a Pan American airliner in which many Indians died. For its part, Pakistan was disturbed by anti-Muslim riots in India, and Zia accused India of assisting the political campaign of Benazir Bhutto.
Between November 1986 and February 1987, first India, then Pakistan, conducted provocative military maneuvers along their border that raised tensions considerably. India's "Operation Brass Tacks" took place in Rajasthan, across from Pakistan's troubled Sindh Province, and Pakistan's maneuvers were located close to India's state of Punjab. The crisis atmosphere was heightened when Pakistan's premier nuclear scientist Abdul Qadir Khan revealed in a March 1987 interview that Pakistan had manufactured a nuclear bomb. Although Khan later retracted his statement, India stated that the disclosure was "forcing us to review our option." The tensions created by the military exercises and the nuclear issue were defused following talks at the foreign secretary level in New Delhi (January 31-February 4) and Islamabad (February 27-March 2), during which the two sides agreed to a phased troop withdrawal to peacetime positions.
The sudden death of Zia in an air crash in August 1988 and the assumption of the prime ministership by Benazir Bhutto in December 1988 after democratic elections provided the two countries with an unexpected opportunity to improve relations. Rajiv Gandhi's attendance at the SAARC summit in Islamabad in December 1988 permitted the two prime ministers to establish a personal rapport and to sign three bilateral agreements, including one proscribing attacks on each other's nuclear facilities. Despite the personal sympathy between the two leaders and Bhutto's initial emphasis on the 1972 Simla Accord as the basis for warmer bilateral ties, domestic political pressures, particularly relating to unrest in Sindh, Punjab, and Kashmir effectively destroyed the chances for improved relations in 1989 and 1990. For her part, Bhutto backed away from her comments on the Simla Accord by continuing to press the Kashmir issue internationally, and Indian public opinion forced Rajiv Gandhi and his successor, V.P. Singh, to take a hard line on events relating to Kashmir.
In the early 1990s, Indian-Pakistani relations remained troubled despite bilateral efforts and changes in the international environment. High-level dialogue on a range of bilateral issues took place between foreign ministers and prime ministers at the UN and at other international meetings. However, discussions over confidence-building measures, begun in the summer of 1990 as a response to the Kashmir confrontation, were canceled in June 1992 following mutual expulsions of diplomats for alleged espionage activities. In June 1991, Pakistani prime minister Mian Nawaz Sharif proposed talks by India, Pakistan, the United States, the Soviet Union, and China to consider making South Asia a nuclear-free zone, but the minority governments of Chandra Shekhar and subsequently that of Narasimha Rao declined to participate. Nevertheless, negotiations concerning the Siachen Glacier resumed in November 1992 after a hiatus of three years. By the mid-1990s, little had occurred to improve bilateral relations as unrest in Jammu and Kashmir accelerated and domestic politics in both nations were unsettled.
Although India played a major role in the establishment of an independent Bangladesh on April 17, 1971, New Delhi's relations with Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, were neither close nor free from dispute (see The Rise of Indira Gandhi, ch. 1). In 1975 Bangladesh began to move away from the linguistic nationalism that had marked its liberation struggle and linked it to India's West Bengal state. Instead, Dhaka stressed Islam as the binding force in Bangladeshi nationalism. The new emphasis on Islam, combined with Bangladeshi concern over India's military buildup and bilateral disputes over riparian borders, shared water resources, and illegal immigration of Bangladeshis into West Bengal, made for fluctuations in India-Bangladesh relations.
Relations are generally good, nevertheless; the two countries have maintained a dialogue on a variety of issues and initiated a modest program of joint economic cooperation. In 1977 New Delhi and Dhaka signed an agreement--that is renewed annually--on sharing the waters of the Ganga (Ganges) River during the dry season, but the two sides made little progress in achieving a permanent solution to their other problems. The main item of contention is the Farakka Barrage, where the Ganga divides into two branches and India has built a feeder canal that controls the flow by rechanneling water on the Indian side of the river. The two nations were still at odds, despite high-level talks, in the mid-1990s.
In the mid- and late 1980s, India's plan to erect a fence to prevent cross-border migration from Bangladesh and Bangladesh's desire that Chakma insurgents not receive Indian covert assistance and refuge in India were major irritants in bilateral relations. As agreed eighteen years earlier, in June 1992 India granted a perpetual lease to Bangladesh for the narrow, 1.5-hectare Tin Bigha corridor in the Ganga's delta that had long separated an enclave of Bangladeshis from their homeland. The two countries signed new agreements to enhance economic cooperation. Bangladesh also received Indian developmental assistance, but that aid was minor compared with the amounts India granted to Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and Maldives. The year 1991 also witnessed the first-ever visit of an Indian army chief of staff to Dhaka.
The two major factors influencing India's relations with Sri Lanka have been security and the shared ethnicity of Tamils living in southern India and in northern and eastern Sri Lanka. Before 1980 common security perceptions and New Delhi's reluctance to intervene in internal affairs in Sri Lanka's capital of Colombo made for relatively close ties between the two countries' governments. Beginning in the mid-1950s, and coinciding with the withdrawal of Britain's military presence in the Indian Ocean, India and Sri Lanka increasingly came to share regional security interests. In the 1970s, New Delhi and Colombo enjoyed close ties on the strength of the relationship between Indira Gandhi and Sri Lanka's prime minister, Mrs. Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias (S.R.D.) Bandaranaike. India fully approved Sri Lanka's desire to replace the British security umbrella with an Indian one, and both sides pursued a policy of nonalignment and cooperated to minimize Western influence in the Indian Ocean.
In the 1980s, ethnic conflict between Sri Lankan Sinhalese in the south and Sri Lankan Tamils in the north escalated, and Tamil separatists established bases and received funding, weapons, and, reportedly, training in India. The clandestine assistance came from private sources and, according to some observers, the state government of Tamil Nadu, and was tolerated by the central government until 1987. Anti-Tamil violence in Colombo in July 1983 prompted India to intervene in the Tamil-Sinhalese conflict, but mediatory efforts failed to prevent the deterioration of the situation. In May 1987, after the Sri Lankan government attempted to regain control of the Jaffna region, in the extreme northern area of the island, by means of an economic blockade and military action, India supplied food and medicine by air and sea to the region. On July 29, 1987, Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lankan president Junius Richard (J.R.) Jayawardene signed an accord designed to settle the conflict by sending the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) to establish order and disarm Tamil separatists, to establish new administrative bodies and hold elections to accommodate Tamil demands for autonomy, and to repatriate Tamil refugees in India and Sri Lanka. The accord also forbade the military use of Sri Lankan ports or broadcasting facilities by outside powers. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the most militant separatist group, refused to disarm, and Indian troops sustained heavy casualties while failing to destroy the LTTE. In June 1989, newly elected Sri Lankan president Ranasinghe Premadasa demanded the withdrawal of the IPKF. Despite the tensions between the two countries created by this request, New Delhi completed the withdrawal in March 1990 (see Peacekeeping Operations, ch. 10).
Bilateral relations improved somewhat in the early 1990s, as the government attempted to expand economic, scientific, and cultural cooperation. India continued to take an interest in the status of Sri Lankan Tamils, but without the direct intervention that characterized the 1980s. The May 1991 assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, allegedly by the LTTE, forced New Delhi to crack down on the LTTE presence in Tamil Nadu and to institute naval patrols in the Palk Strait to interdict LTTE movements to India. In January 1992, repatriation of Tamil refugees to Sri Lanka commenced and was still underway in 1994.
Relations between India and Nepal are close yet fraught with difficulties stemming from geography, economics, the problems inherent in big power-small power relations, and common ethnic and linguistic identities that overlap the two countries' borders. In 1950 New Delhi and Kathmandu initiated their intertwined relationship with the Treaty of Peace and Friendship and accompanying letters that defined security relations between the two countries, and an agreement governing both bilateral trade and trade transiting Indian soil. The 1950 treaty and letters stated that "neither government shall tolerate any threat to the security of the other by a foreign aggressor" and obligated both sides "to inform each other of any serious friction or misunderstanding with any neighboring state likely to cause any breach in the friendly relations subsisting between the two governments." These accords cemented a "special relationship" between India and Nepal that granted Nepal preferential economic treatment and provided Nepalese in India the same economic and educational opportunities as Indian citizens.
In the 1950s, Nepal welcomed close relations with India, but as the number of Nepalese living and working in India increased and the involvement of India in Nepal's economy deepened in the 1960s and after, so too did Nepalese discomfort with the special relationship. Tensions came to a head in the mid-1970s, when Nepal pressed for substantial amendments in its favor in the trade and transit treaty and openly criticized India's 1975 annexation of Sikkim as an Indian state. In 1975 King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev proposed that Nepal be recognized internationally as a zone of peace; he received support from China and Pakistan. In New Delhi's view, if the king's proposal did not contradict the 1950 treaty and was merely an extension of nonalignment, it was unnecessary; if it was a repudiation of the special relationship, it represented a possible threat to India's security and could not be endorsed. In 1984 Nepal repeated the proposal, but there was no reaction from India. Nepal continually promoted the proposal in international forums, with Chinese support; by 1990 it had won the support of 112 countries.
In 1978 India agreed to separate trade and transit treaties, satisfying a long-term Nepalese demand. In 1988, when the two treaties were up for renewal, Nepal's refusal to accommodate India's wishes on the transit treaty caused India to call for a single trade and transit treaty. Thereafter, Nepal took a hard-line position that led to a serious crisis in India-Nepal relations. After two extensions, the two treaties expired on March 23, 1989, resulting in a virtual Indian economic blockade of Nepal that lasted until late April 1990. Although economic issues were a major factor in the two countries' confrontation, Indian dissatisfaction with Nepal's 1988 acquisition of Chinese weaponry played an important role. New Delhi perceived the arms purchase as an indication of Kathmandu's intent to build a military relationship with Beijing, in violation of the 1950 treaty and letters exchanged in 1959 and 1965, which included Nepal in India's security zone and precluded arms purchases without India's approval. India linked security with economic relations and insisted on reviewing India-Nepal relations as a whole. Nepal had to back down after worsening economic conditions led to a change in Nepal's political system, in which the king was forced to institute a parliamentary democracy. The new government sought quick restoration of amicable relations with India.
The special security relationship between New Delhi and Kathmandu was reestablished during the June 1990 New Delhi meeting of Nepal's prime minister Krishna Prasad Bhattarai and Indian prime minister V.P. Singh. During the December 1991 visit to India by Nepalese prime minister Girijad Prasad Koirala, the two countries signed new, separate trade and transit treaties and other economic agreements designed to accord Nepal additional economic benefits.
Indian-Nepali relations appeared to be undergoing still more reassessment when Nepal's prime minister Man Mohan Adhikary visited New Delhi in April 1995 and insisted on a major review of the 1950 peace and friendship treaty. In the face of benign statements by his Indian hosts relating to the treaty, Adhikary sought greater economic independence for his landlocked nation while simultaneously striving to improve ties with China.
Despite the long and substantial involvement of India in Bhutan's economic, educational, and military affairs, and India's advisory role in foreign affairs embodied in the August 8, 1949, Treaty of Friendship Between the Government of India and the Government of Bhutan, Thimphu's autonomy has been fully respected by New Delhi. Bhutan's geographic isolation, its distinctive Buddhist culture, and its deliberate restriction on the number and kind of foreigners admitted have helped to protect its separate identity. Furthermore, Bhutan's relationship with China, unlike Nepal's, has not become an issue in relations with India. Bhutanese subjects have the same access to economic and educational opportunities as Indian citizens, and Indian citizens have the right to carry on trade in Bhutan, with some restrictions that protect Bhutanese industries. India also provides Bhutan with developmental assistance and cooperation in infrastructure, telecommunications, industry, energy, medicine, and animal husbandry. Since joining the UN in 1971, Bhutan has increasingly established its international status in a concerted effort to avoid the fate of Sikkim's absorption into India following the reduction of Sikkim's indigenous people to minority status.
India and Maldives have enjoyed close and friendly relations since Maldives became independent in 1965. Disputes between the two countries have been few, and both sides amicably settled their maritime boundary in 1976. In November 1988, at the behest of the Maldivian government, Indian paratroopers and naval forces crushed a coup attempt by mercenaries. India's action, viewed by some critics as an indication of Indian ambitions to be a regional police officer, were regarded by the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, Nepal, and Bangladesh as legitimate assistance to a friendly government and in keeping with India's strategic role in South Asia. In the 1980s and 1990s, Indian and Maldivian leaders maintained regular consultations at the highest levels. New Delhi also has provided developmental assistance to Male (Maldives' capital) and has participated in bilateral cooperation programs in infrastructure development, health and welfare, civil aviation, telecommunications, and labor resources development.
Although India and China had relatively little political contact before the 1950s, both countries have had extensive cultural contact since the first century A.D., especially with the transmission of Buddhism from India to China (see Buddhism, ch. 3). Although Nehru based his vision of "resurgent Asia" on friendship between the two largest states of Asia, the two countries had a conflict of interest in Tibet (which later became China's Xizang Autonomous Region), a geographical and political buffer zone where India had inherited special privileges from the British colonial government. At the end of its civil war in 1949, China wanted to reassert control over Tibet and to "liberate" the Tibetan people from Lamaism (Tibetan Buddhism) and feudalism, which it did by force of arms in 1950. To avoid antagonizing China, Nehru informed Chinese leaders that India had neither political nor territorial ambitions, nor did it seek special privileges in Tibet, but that traditional trading rights must continue. With Indian support, Tibetan delegates signed an agreement in May 1951 recognizing Chinese sovereignty and control but guaranteeing that the existing political and social system in Tibet would continue. Direct negotiations between India and China commenced in an atmosphere improved by India's mediatory efforts in ending the Korean War (1950-53).
In April 1954, India and China signed an eight-year agreement on Tibet that set forth the basis of their relationship in the form of the Panch Shila. Although critics called the Panch Shila naive, Nehru calculated that in the absence of either the wherewithal or a policy for defense of the Himalayan region, India's best guarantee of security was to establish a psychological buffer zone in place of the lost physical buffer of Tibet. Thus the catch phrase of India's diplomacy with China in the 1950s was Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai (Hindi for "India and China are brothers"). Up to 1959, despite border skirmishes and discrepancies between Indian and Chinese maps, Chinese leaders amicably had assured India that there was no territorial contro-versy on the border.
When an Indian reconnaissance party discovered a completed Chinese road running through the Aksai Chin region of the Ladakh District of Jammu and Kashmir, border clashes and Indian protests became more frequent and serious. In January 1959, Chinese premier Zhou Enlai wrote to Nehru, rejecting Nehru's contention that the border was based on treaty and custom and pointing out that no government in China had accepted as legal the McMahon Line, which in the 1914 Simla Convention defined the eastern section of the border between India and Tibet. The Dalai Lama--spiritual and temporal head of the Tibetan people--sought sanctuary in Dharmsala, Himachal Pradesh, in March 1959, and thousands of Tibetan refugees settled in northwestern India, particularly in Himachal Pradesh. China accused India of expansionism and imperialism in Tibet and throughout the Himalayan region. China claimed 104,000 square kilometers of territory over which India's maps showed clear sovereignty, and demanded "rectification" of the entire border.
Zhou proposed that China relinquish its claim to most of India's northeast in exchange for India's abandonment of its claim to Aksai Chin. The Indian government, constrained by domestic public opinion, rejected the idea of a settlement based on uncompensated loss of territory as being humiliating and unequal.
Chinese forces attacked India on October 20, 1962. Having pushed the unprepared, ill-equipped, and inadequately led Indian forces to within forty-eight kilometers of the Assam plains in the northeast and having occupied strategic points in Ladakh, China declared a unilateral cease-fire on November 21 and withdrew twenty kilometers behind its new line of control (see The Experience of Wars, ch. 10).
Relations with China worsened during the rest of the 1960s and the early 1970s as Chinese-Pakistani relations improved and Chinese-Soviet relations worsened. China backed Pakistan in its 1965 war with India. Between 1967 and 1971, an all-weather road was built across territory claimed by India, linking China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region with Pakistan; India could do no more than protest. China continued an active propaganda campaign against India and supplied ideological, financial, and other assistance to dissident groups, especially to tribes in northeastern India. China accused India of assisting the Khampa rebels in Tibet. Diplomatic contact between the two governments was minimal although not formally severed. The flow of cultural and other exchanges that had marked the 1950s ceased entirely. In August 1971, India signed its Treaty of Peace, Friendship, and Cooperation with the Soviet Union, and the United States and China sided with Pakistan in its December 1971 war with India. By this time, Beijing was seated at the UN, where its representatives denounced India as being a "tool of Soviet expansionism."
India and China renewed efforts to improve relations after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979. China modified its pro-Pakistan stand on Kashmir and appeared willing to remain silent on India's absorption of Sikkim and its special advisory relationship with Bhutan. China's leaders agreed to discuss the boundary issue--India's priority--as the first step to a broadening of relations. The two countries hosted each others' news agencies, and Kailash (Kangrinbogê Feng) and Mansarowar Lake (Mapam Yumco Lake) in Tibet--the mythological home of the Hindu pantheon--were opened to annual pilgrimages from India. In 1981 Chinese minister of foreign affairs Huang Hua was invited to India, where he made complimentary remarks about India's role in South Asia. Chinese premier Zhao Ziyang concurrently toured Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
After the Huang visit, India and China held eight rounds of border negotiations between December 1981 and November 1987. These talks initially raised hopes that progress could be made on the border issue. However, in 1985 China stiffened its position on the border and insisted on mutual concessions without defining the exact terms of its "package proposal" or where the actual line of control lay. In 1986 and 1987, the negotiations achieved nothing, given the charges exchanged between the two countries of military encroachment in the Sumdorung Chu valley of the Tawang tract on the eastern sector of the border. China's construction of a military post and helicopter pad in the area in 1986 and India's grant of statehood to Arunachal Pradesh (formerly the North-East Frontier Agency) in February 1987 caused both sides to deploy new troops to the area, raising tensions and fears of a new border war. China relayed warnings that it would "teach India a lesson" if it did not cease "nibbling" at Chinese territory. By the summer of 1987, however, both sides had backed away from conflict and denied that military clashes had taken place.
A warming trend in relations was facilitated by Rajiv Gandhi's visit to China in December 1988. The two sides issued a joint communiqué that stressed the need to restore friendly relations on the basis of the Panch Shila and noted the importance of the first visit by an Indian prime minister to China since Nehru's 1954 visit. India and China agreed to broaden bilateral ties in various areas, working to achieve a "fair and reasonable settlement while seeking a mutually acceptable solution" to the border dispute. The communiqué also expressed China's concern about agitation by Tibetan separatists in India and reiterated China's position that Tibet was an integral part of China and that anti-China political activities by expatriate Tibetans was not to be tolerated. Rajiv Gandhi signed bilateral agreements on science and technology cooperation, on civil aviation to establish direct air links, and on cultural exchanges. The two sides also agreed to hold annual diplomatic consultations between foreign ministers, and to set up a joint ministerial committee on economic and scientific cooperation and a joint working group on the boundary issue. The latter group was to be led by the Indian foreign secretary and the Chinese vice minister of foreign affairs.
As the mid-1990s approached, slow but steady improvement in relations with China was visible. Top-level dialogue continued with the December 1991 visit of Chinese premier Li Peng to India and the May 1992 visit to China of Indian president Ramaswami Venkataraman. Six rounds of talks of the Indian-Chinese Joint Working Group on the Border Issue were held between December 1988 and June 1993. Progress was also made in reducing tensions on the border via confidence-building measures, including mutual troop reductions, regular meetings of local military commanders, and advance notification of military exercises. Border trade resumed in July 1992 after a hiatus of more than thirty years, consulates reopened in Bombay (or Mumbai in the Marathi language) and Shanghai in December 1992, and, in June 1993, the two sides agreed to open an additional border trading post. During Sharad Pawar's July 1992 visit to Beijing, the first ever by an Indian minister of defence, the two defense establishments agreed to develop academic, military, scientific, and technological exchanges and to schedule an Indian port call by a Chinese naval vessel.
Substantial movement in relations continued in 1993. The sixth- round joint working group talks were held in June in New Delhi but resulted in only minor developments. However, as the year progressed the long-standing border dispute was eased as a result of bilateral pledges to reduce troop levels and to respect the cease-fire line along the India-China border. Prime Minister Narasimha Rao and Chinese premier Li Peng signed the border agreement and three other agreements (on cross-border trade, and on increased cooperation on the environment and in radio and television broadcasting) during the former's visit to Beijing in September. A senior-level Chinese military delegation made a six-day goodwill visit to India in December 1993 aimed at "fostering confidence-building measures between the defense forces of the two countries." The visit, however, came at a time when press reports revealed that, as a result of improved relations between China and Burma, China was exporting greater amounts of military matériel to Burma's army, navy, and air force and sending an increasing number of technicians to Burma. Of concern to Indian security officials was the presence of Chinese radar technicians in Burma's Coco Islands, which border India's Union Territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Nevertheless, movement continued in 1994 on troop reductions along the Himalayan frontier. Moreover, in January 1994 Beijing announced that it not only favored a negotiated solution on Kashmir, but also opposed any form of independence for the region.
Talks were held in New Delhi in February 1994 aimed at confirming established "confidence-building measures" and discussing clarification of the "line of actual control," reduction of armed forces along the line, and prior information about forthcoming military exercises. China's hope for settlement of the boundary issue was reiterated.
The 1993 Chinese military visit to India was reciprocated by Indian army chief of staff General B.C. Joshi. During talks in Beijing in July 1994, the two sides agreed that border problems should be resolved peacefully through "mutual understanding and concessions." The border issue was raised in September 1994 when Chinese minister of national defense Chi Haotian visited New Delhi for extensive talks with high-level Indian trade and defense officials. Further talks in New Delhi in March 1995 by the India-China Expert Group led to an agreement to set up two additional points of contact along the 4,000-kilometer border to facilitate meetings between military personnel. The two sides also were reported as "seriously engaged" in defining the McMahon Line and the line of actual control vis-à-vis military exercises and prevention of air intrusion. Talks in Beijing in July 1995 aimed at better border security and combating cross-border crimes and in New Delhi in August 1995 on additional troop withdrawals from the border made further progress in reducing tensions.
Possibly indicative of the further relaxation of India-China relations--at least there was little notice taken in Beijing--was the April 1995 announcement, after a year of consultation, of the opening of the <"http://worldfacts.us/Taiwan-Taipei.htm"> TaipeiEconomic and Cultural Center in New Delhi. The center serves as the representative office of Taiwan and is the counterpart of the India-Taipei Association in Taiwan; both institutions have the goal of improving relations between the two sides, which have been strained since New Delhi's recognition of Beijing in 1950.
Source: U.S. Library of Congress
In the 1970s and 1980s, India's close ties with the Soviet Union and its pro-Soviet, pro-Vietnamese policies toward Cambodia precluded development of any constructive relations between India on the one hand and the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN--see Glossary) on the other. Furthermore, India's military buildup, particularly of its naval capabilities and naval installations in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, worried ASEAN policy makers, who saw India as a potential threat to regional security. Indian-ASEAN relations improved in the 1990s as the result of the end of the bipolar world system, the UN-brokered peace settlement in Cambodia, and the breakup of the Soviet Union. For its part, New Delhi sought to boost economic and trade ties with the region and to establish closer political and defense ties in order to counteract China's growing influence in Southeast Asia. ASEAN countries grew less concerned with India's regional ambitions after New Delhi's decision to curtail its naval buildup because of financial restraints. In January 1992, ASEAN accepted India's proposal to become a "sectoral dialogue partner" in the areas of trade, technical and labor development, technology, and tourism. India's new role was expected to facilitate economic cooperation. In January 1993, India and Malaysia signed a memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation.
India has had close ties with Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam as a result of its 1954-73 chairmanship of the International Commissions of Control and Supervision established by the 1954 Geneva Accords on Indochina. These relations were enhanced by India's friendship with the Soviet Union, particularly after 1971 and, in the case of Vietnam, shared perceptions of the threat from China. With regard to Cambodia, India recognized the Vietnamese-installed regime in 1980 and worked to avert censure of the regime in the annual UN General Assembly and triennial Nonaligned Movement summit meetings. In the late 1980s, Indian diplomats attempted to facilitate the search for peace in Cambodia, and India participated in the 1989 Paris Peace Conference on Cambodia and in subsequent efforts to find a solution to the Cambodian situation. New Delhi played a minor but nevertheless constructive role before and after the Agreement on a Comprehensive Political Settlement of the Cambodia Conflict and three other documents were signed in Paris on October 23, 1991. India contributed more than 1,700 civilian, military, and police personnel to the United Nations Advanced Mission in Cambodia and the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia.
India has traditionally pursued a pro-Arab policy regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict in order to counteract Pakistani influence in the region and to secure access to Middle East petroleum resources. In the 1950s and early 1960s, this pro-Arab stance did not help India in establishing good relations with all Arab countries but may have served to keep peace with its own Muslim minority. India concentrated on developing a close relationship with Egypt on the strength of Nehru's ties with Egyptian president Gamel Abdul Nasser. But the New Delhi-Cairo friendship was insufficient to counteract Arab sympathy for Pakistan in its dispute with India. Furthermore, Indian-Egyptian ties came at the expense of cultivating relations with such countries as Saudi Arabia and Jordan and thus limited India's influence in the region.
In the late 1960s and in the 1970s, India successfully improved bilateral relations by developing mutually beneficial economic exchanges with a number of Islamic countries, particularly Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the other Persian Gulf states. The strength of India's economic ties enabled it to build strong relationships with Iran and Iraq, which helped India weather the displeasure of Islamic countries stemming from India's war with Pakistan in 1971. Indian-Middle Eastern relations were further strengthened by New Delhi's anti-Israeli stance in the Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973 and by Indian support for the fourfold oil price rise in 1973 by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Closer ties with Middle Eastern countries were dictated by India's dependency on petroleum imports. Oil represented 8 percent of India's total imports in 1971; 42 percent in 1981; and 28 percent in 1991. India purchased oil from Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait and, in return, provided engineering services, manufactured goods, and labor. The 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War forced India to shift its oil purchases from Iran and Iraq to Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states also have received large numbers of Indian workers and manufactures and have become the regional base for Indian business operations.
Two events in 1978 and 1979--the installation of the Islamic regime under Ayatollah Sayyid Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini in Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in support of the pro-Soviet Marxist regime in Kabul--complicated India's relations with Middle East countries. From the Indian perspective, these two events and the Iran-Iraq War changed the balance of power in West Asia by weakening Iran as a regional power and a potential supporter of Pakistan, a situation favorable to India. At the same time, proxy superpower competition in Afghanistan strengthened the hand of India's adversary Pakistan by virtue of the military support Pakistan received from the United States, China, and Arab states led by Saudi Arabia. In the 1980s, India performed a delicate diplomatic balancing act. New Delhi took a position of neutrality in the Iran-Iraq War, maintained warm ties with Baghdad, and built workable political and economic relations with Tehran despite misgivings about the foreign policy goals of the Khomeini regime. India managed to improve relations with Middle Eastern countries that provided support to the Afghan mujahideen and Pakistan by redirecting Indian petroleum purchases to Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf countries. New Delhi, which traditionally had had close relations with Kabul, condemned the Soviet invasion only in the most perfunctory manner and provided diplomatic, economic, and logistic support for the Marxist regime.
In the early 1990s, India stepped back from its staunch anti-Israeli stance and support for the Palestinian cause. Besides practical economic and security considerations in the post-Cold War world, domestic politics--especially those influenced by Hindu nationalists--played a role in this reversal. In December 1991, India voted with the UN majority to repeal the UN resolution equating Zionism with racism. In 1992, following the example of the Soviet Union and China, India established diplomatic relations with Israel.
During the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War, Indian policy makers were torn between adopting a traditional nonaligned policy sympathetic to Iraq or favoring the coalition of moderate Arab and Western countries that could benefit Indian security and economic interests. India initially adopted an ambivalent approach, condemning both the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the intrusion of external forces into the region. When the National Front government led by V.P. Singh was replaced by the Chandra Shekhar minority government in November 1990, the Indian response changed. Wary of incurring the displeasure of the United States and other Western nations on whom India depended to obtain assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF--see Glossary), New Delhi voted for the UN resolution authorizing the use of force to expel Iraqi troops from Kuwait and rejected Iraq's linkage of the Kuwaiti and Palestinian problems. In January 1991, India also permitted United States military aircraft to refuel in Bombay. The refueling decision stirred such domestic controversy that the Chandra Shekhar government withdrew the refueling privileges in February 1991 to deflect the criticism of Rajiv Gandhi's Congress (I), which argued that India's nominal pro-United States tilt betrayed the country's nonaligned principles.
Prime Minister Narasimha Rao's September 1993 visit to Iran was hailed as "successful and useful" by the Indian media and seen as a vehicle for speeding up the improvement of bilateral relations. Key developments included discussions on the construction of a pipeline to supply Iranian natural gas to India and allowing India to develop transit facilities in Iran for Indian products destined for the landlocked Central Asian republics. India also sought to assuage its concerns over a possible Iranian-Central Asian republics nuclear nexus, which some saw as a potential and very serious threat to India should Pakistan also join in an Islamic nuclear front aimed at India and Israel. When Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani visited India in April 1995 to sign a major trade accord (the accord also was signed by the minister of foreign affairs of Turkmenistan) and five bilateral agreements, India-Iranian relations could be seen to be on the upswing.
Until large parts of Central Asia were incorporated into the Russian Empire in the mid-nineteenth century, relations between India and Central Asia had been close. During the post-1971 era of close Indian-Soviet relations, cultural exchanges flourished between India and the Central Asian republics. The dissolution of the Soviet Union forced India to construct policies to deal with the new political situation in the Central Asian republics. In 1991 and 1992, India established diplomatic relations with Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan and worked with these newly independent states to develop frameworks for diplomatic, economic, and cultural cooperation. Besides its long historical connections with this region, India sought good relations for several reasons: to prevent Pakistan from developing an anti-India coalition with the Central Asian states in the dispute over Kashmir, to persuade those states not to provide Pakistan with assistance in its nuclear program, to ensure continued contacts with long-standing commercial and military suppliers, and to provide new opportunities to Indian businesses.
Normal diplomatic and trade relations are an Indian goal in relations with the Central Asian republics. For example, economic and cultural affairs were the focal point of Indian prime minister P.V. Narahimsa Rao's official visit to Uzbekistan and Kazakstan in May 1993. Security matters also are important as witnessed by a February 1995 visit to India by Kazakstan's defense minister. Adherence to democracy and secularism by these countries also was regarded by India as desirable in order to ensure stability and social progress. The geopolitical competition between India and Pakistan for influence in these countries is likely to be a long-tern factor.
With regard to Afghanistan, India supported the Marxist regime in Kabul until its collapse in the spring of 1992. India then attempted to regain some influence in the country by cooperating with Iran to provide assistance to Dari-speaking and other minorities against the Pashtun groups backed by Pakistan in the ensuing civil war.
Despite the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, the relationship between India and Russia remains one of considerable importance to both countries. Since the early 1950s, New Delhi and Moscow had built friendly relations on the basis of realpolitik. India's nonalignment enabled it to accept Soviet support in areas of strategic congruence, as in disputes with Pakistan and China, without subscribing to Soviet global policies or proposals for Asian collective security. Close and cooperative ties were forged in particular in the sectors of Indian industrial development and defense production and purchases. But the relationship was circumscribed by wide differences in domestic and social systems and the absence of substantial people-to-people contact--in contrast to India's relations with the United States (see United States, this ch.).
Ties between India and the Soviet Union initially were distant. Nehru had expressed admiration for the Soviet Union's rapid economic transformation, but the Soviet Union regarded India as a "tool of Anglo-American imperialism." After Josef Stalin's death in 1953, the Soviet Union expressed its hopes for "friendly cooperation" with India. This aim was prompted by the Soviet decision to broaden its international contacts and to cultivate the nonaligned and newly independent countries of Asia and Africa. Nehru's state visit to the Soviet Union in June 1955 was the first of its kind for an Indian prime minister. It was followed by the trip of Premier Nikolai Bulganin and General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev to India in November and December 1955. The Soviet leaders endorsed the entire range of Indian foreign policy based on the Panch Shila and supported India's position against Pakistan on Kashmir. The Soviet Union also supported India's position vis-à-vis Portugal on Goa, which was territorially integrated into India as a union territory by the Indian armed forces in December 1961 (it became a state in May 1987).
The Soviet Union and some East European countries offered India new avenues of trade and economic assistance. By 1965 the Soviet Union was the second largest national contributor to India's development. These new arrangements contributed to India's emergence as a significant industrial power through the construction of plants to produce steel, heavy machinery and equipment, machine tools, and precision instruments, and to generate power and extract and refine petroleum. Soviet investment was in India's public-sector industry, which the World Bank (see Glossary) and Western industrial powers had been unwilling to assist until spurred by Soviet competition. Soviet aid was extended on the basis of long-term, government-to-government programs, which covered successive phases of technical training for Indians, supply of raw materials, progressive use of Indian inputs, and markets for finished products. Bilateral arrangements were made in nonconvertible national currencies, helping to conserve India's scarce foreign exchange. Thus the Soviet contribution to Indian economic development was generally regarded by foreign and domestic observers as positive (see Foreign Economic Relations, ch. 6).
Nehru obtained a Soviet commitment to neutrality on the India-China border dispute and war of 1962. During the India-Pakistan war of 1965, the Soviet Union acted with the United States in the UN Security Council to bring about a cease-fire. Soviet premier Aleksei N. Kosygin went further by offering his good offices for a negotiated settlement, which took place at Tashkent on January 10, 1966. Until 1969 the Soviet Union took an evenhanded position in South Asia and supplied a limited quantity of arms to Pakistan in 1968. From 1959 India had accepted Soviet offers of military sales. Indian acquisition of Soviet military equipment was important because purchases were made against deferred rupee payments, a major concession to India's chronic shortage of foreign exchange. Simultaneous provisions were made for licensed manufacture and modification in India, one criterion of self-reliant defense on which India placed increasing emphasis. In addition, Soviet sales were made without any demands for restricted deployment, adjustments in Indian policies toward other countries, adherence to Soviet global policies, or acceptance of Soviet military advisers. In this way, Indian national autonomy was not compromised.
The most intimate phase in relations between India and the Soviet Union was the period between 1971 and 1976: its highlight was the twenty-year Treaty of Peace, Friendship, and Cooperation of August 1971. Articles 8, 9, and 10 of the treaty committed the parties "to abstain from providing any assistance to any third party that engages in armed conflict with the other" and "in the event of either party being subjected to an attack or threat thereof . . . to immediately enter into mutual consultations." India benefited at the time because the Soviet Union came to support the Indian position on Bangladesh and because the treaty acted as a deterrent to China. New Delhi also received accelerated shipments of Soviet military equipment in the last quarter of 1971. The first state visit of Soviet president Leonid Brezhnev to India in November 1973 was conducted with tremendous fanfare and stressed the theme of economic cooperation. By the late 1970s, the Soviet Union was India's largest trading partner.
The friendship treaty notwithstanding, Indira Gandhi did not alter important principles of Indian foreign policy. She made it clear that the Soviet Union would not receive any special privileges--much less naval base rights--in Indian ports, despite the major Soviet contribution to the construction of shipbuilding and ship-repair facilities at Bombay on the west coast and at Vishakhapatnam on the east coast. India's advocacy of the Indian Ocean as a zone of peace was directed against aggrandizement of the Soviet naval presence as much as that of other extraregional powers. By repeatedly emphasizing the nonexclusive nature of its friendship with the Soviet Union, India kept open the way for normalizing relations with China and improving ties with the West.
After the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, Indian diplomats avoided condemnatory language and resolutions as useless Cold War exercises that could only antagonize the Soviet Union and postpone political settlement. They called instead for withdrawal of all foreign troops and negotiation among concerned parties. In meetings with Soviet leaders in New Delhi in 1980 and in Moscow in 1982, Indira Gandhi privately pressed harder for the withdrawal of Soviet troops and for the restoration of Afghanistan's traditional nonalignment and independence.
Rajiv Gandhi journeyed to the Soviet Union in 1985, 1986, 1987, and 1989, and Soviet president Mikhail S. Gorbachev traveled to India in 1986 and 1988. These visits and those of other high officials evoked effusive references to the "exemplary" (in Gorbachev's term) friendship between the two countries and also achieved the conclusion of agreements to expand economic, cultural, and scientific and technological cooperation. In 1985 and 1986, and again in 1988, both nations signed pacts to boost bilateral trade and provide Soviet investment and technical assistance for Indian industrial, telecommunications, and transportation projects. In 1985 and 1988, the Soviet Union also extended to India credits of 1 billion rubles and 3 billion rubles, respectively (a total of about US$2.4 billion), for the purchase of Soviet machinery and goods. Protocols for scientific cooperation, signed in 1985 and 1987, provided the framework for joint research and projects in space science and such high-technology areas as biotechnology, computers, and lasers. The flow of advanced Soviet military equipment also continued in the mid- and late 1980s (see The Air Force, ch. 10).
When the Soviet Union disintegrated, India was faced with the difficult task of reorienting its external affairs and forging relations with the fifteen Soviet successor states, of which Russia was the most important (see Central Asia, this ch.). In 1993 New Delhi and Moscow worked to redefine their relationship according to post-Cold War realities. During the January 1993 visit of Russian president Boris Yeltsin to India, the two countries signed agreements that signaled a new emphasis on economic cooperation in bilateral relations. The 1971 treaty was replaced with the new Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, which dropped security clauses that in the Cold War were directed against the United States and China. Yeltsin stated that Russia would deliver cryogenic engines and space technology for India's space program under a US$350 million deal between the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Russian space agency, Glavkosmos, despite the imposition of sanctions on both organizations by the United States. In addition, Yeltsin expressed strong support for India's stand on Kashmir. A defense cooperation accord aimed at ensuring the continued supply of Russian arms and spare parts to satisfy the requirements of India's military and at promoting the joint production of defense equipment. Bilateral trade, which had fallen drastically during the 1990-92 period, was expected to revive following the resolution of the dispute over New Delhi's debt to Moscow and the May 1992 decision to abandon the 1978 rupee-ruble trade agreement in favor of the use of hard currency.
Pressure from the United States, which believed the engines and technology could be diverted to ballistic missile development, led the Russians to cancel most of the deal in July 1993. Russia did, however, supply rockets to help India to develop the technology to launch geostationary satellites, and, with cryogenic engine plans already in hand, the ISRO was determined to produce its own engines by 1997 (see Space and Nuclear Programs, ch. 10).
Despite Yeltsin's call for a realignment of Russia, India, and China to balance the West, Russia shares interests with the developed countries on nuclear proliferation issues. In November 1991, Moscow voted for a Pakistani-sponsored UN resolution calling for the establishment of a South Asian nuclear-free zone. Russia urged India to support the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and decided in March 1992 to apply "full-scope safeguards" to future nuclear supply agreements. Russia also shares interests with the United States in cooling antagonisms between India and Pakistan, particularly with regard to Kashmir, thus making it unlikely that India could count on Russia in a future dispute with Pakistan.
Rao reciprocated Yeltsin's visit in July 1994. The two leaders signed declarations assuring international and bilateral goodwill and continuation of Russian arms and military equipment exports to India. Rao's Moscow visit lacked the controversy that characterized his May 1994 visit to the United States and was deemed an important success because of the various accords, one of which restored the sale of cryogenic engines to India.
Bilateral relations between India and Russia improved as a result of eight agreements signed in December 1994. The agreements cover military and technical cooperation from 1995 to 2000, merchant shipping, and promotion and mutual protection of investments, trade, and outer space cooperation. Political observers saw the visit of Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin that occasioned the signing of the eight agreements as a sign of a return to the earlier course of warm relations between New Delhi and Moscow. In March 1995, India and Russia signed agreements aimed at suppressing illegal weapons smuggling and drug trafficking. And when Russian nationalist Vladimir V. Zhirinovsky visited India in March 1995, he declared that he would give India large supplies of arms and military hardware if he were elected president of Russia.
With the end of the Cold War and the emergence of India's more outward-looking economic policies, the United States became increasingly important for India. In the mid-1990s, the United States was India's largest trading partner and a major source of technology and investment (see Aid; Trade, ch. 6). Indian students more than ever sought higher education in the United States, especially in the areas of science and engineering. Moreover, the presence of the more than 1 million Indians and Indian Americans residing in the United States was a factor in the relationship. Some foreign policy makers also saw India's strong democratic tradition, although much younger than that of the United States, as an important ingredient in India-United States relations. Despite the asymmetrical relationship that had existed since 1947, the areas of common interest converged in the early 1990s as the benefits of good relations were perceived on both sides. Some Indian observers, however, felt that the United States had a "negative agenda" concerning India with respect to human rights, the nuclear program, and the pace of economic reforms. Furthermore, India's long adherence to the principles of nonalignment has had an inhibiting effect on its evolving relations with the United States. Nevertheless, some opinion makers believed that an India-United States strategic alliance later in the 1990s was a possibility.
Until 1971 nonalignment had a dual effect on United States policies in South Asia. On the one hand, Washington considered Indian economic and political stability necessary to prevent that important regional player from succumbing to communism and Soviet influence; hence the United States gave economic assistance and support to India during its 1962 war with China (see External Aid, ch. 7). On the other hand, India's nonalignment had led the United States in 1954 to ally itself with Pakistan, which appeared to support Western security interests. The United States-Pakistan alliance was renewed in 1959, with accompanying assurances from President Dwight D. Eisenhower to Nehru that the arms supplied to Pakistan would not be used in any aggressive war. When Pakistan and India went to war in 1965, the United States government refused to support India and suspended military transfers to both countries.
In 1971 the intertwining of the United States-Soviet, Chinese-Soviet, and Indian-Pakistani conflicts dragged India-United States relations to the nadir. That year, while Washington initiated a new relationship with Beijing, New Delhi signed a friendship treaty with Moscow to counteract United States and Chinese influence in South Asia. As the situation in East Pakistan deteriorated, India was unable to convince the United States to cease arms deliveries to Pakistan and persuade Pakistan's leaders to reach a political settlement with East Pakistan's elected representatives. Indira Gandhi's November 1971 visit to Washington failed to alter President Richard M. Nixon's pro-Pakistan stance. When war formally began after Pakistani strikes on Indian airfields in early December 1971, the United States and China voted for a cease-fire in the UN Security Council, but the Soviet Union's veto prevented any resolution from coming into effect. Washington's subsequent deployment of a naval task force to the Bay of Bengal left many in India convinced that the United States was a major security threat.
Relations between India and the United States verged on the antagonistic throughout the 1970s. After Nixon abruptly terminated US$82 million in economic assistance, India closed down a large United States Agency for International Development program. The Indian government also restricted the flow of American scholars and students to India. India's criticisms of United States policies in Vietnam and Cambodia increased, and it upgraded its representation in Hanoi. When the United States expanded its naval base on the island of Diego Garcia and engaged in naval exercises with Pakistan in the Indian Ocean in 1974, India saw its security further threatened. Both governments, however, attempted to limit the damage to bilateral relations. A 1973 agreement defused a dispute over United States rupee holdings by writing off more than 50 percent of the debt and directing use of the remainder to mutually acceptable programs. In 1974 the Indo-United States Joint Commission was established to insulate bilateral dealings in education and culture, economics, and science and technology from political controversy and to provide mechanisms for regular exchanges at high levels of public life.
Hopes for improved relations were expressed in 1977 when Jimmy Carter became president of the United States and the Janata Party government led by Morarji Desai took over in India (see Political Parties, ch. 8). These expectations came to an abrupt end two years later when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. The promulgation of the Carter Doctrine, establishment of the Rapid Deployment Force (later called the United States Central Command) and an Indian Ocean fleet, planned expansion of the naval base at Diego Garcia, and arrangements to supply Pakistan with US$3.2 billion in military and economic aid over five years all appeared as direct United States intervention in the countries of the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean. These actions fueled instability in the region and, in India's view, threatened India's security.
The personal rapport between Indira Gandhi and United States president Ronald Reagan, established during a series of meetings in the early 1980s, enabled the two countries gradually to begin improving bilateral relations. The Reagan administration reassessed its policy toward India and decided to expand areas of cooperation, particularly in the economic and scientific realms, as a means of counteracting Soviet influence in the region. Washington also regarded New Delhi's status as the major regional power in South Asia in a more favorable light. For her part, Gandhi realized that India was unable to block United States arms sales to Pakistan, but that improved dialogue with the United States could open other areas of interaction that could benefit Indian interests. Indira Gandhi's highly successful 1982 state visit to the United States was followed by a series of high-level exchanges, including the visits of Vice President George Bush and Secretary of State George Shultz to India. In addition, in 1982 the two sides resolved their dispute concerning supplies of fuel and spare parts for the nuclear power plant at Tarapur. In 1984 the United States decided to expand technology transfers to India.
The warming trend in relations between New Delhi and Washington continued with the 1985 and 1987 visits by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to Washington. Furthermore, as the United States appreciation of India's role as a force for stability in South Asia grew, Washington supported New Delhi's moves in Sri Lanka in 1987 and in Maldives in 1988. In the mid- and late 1980s, visits exchanged by the United States secretary of defense and the Indian minister of defence symbolized a modest but growing program of cooperation in military technology and other defense matters. In 1988 Washington and New Delhi finalized an accord to provide United States technology for India's light combat aircraft program and also agreed to transfer technology for the F-5 fighter. Cooperation between India and the United States in a variety of scientific fields followed the signing of a bilateral agreement on scientific and technological exchanges in 1985. Nonmilitary technology transfers also accelerated, and in 1987 India purchased a Cray supercomputer for agricultural research and weather forecasting and accepted stringent United States safeguards to preclude military uses. Furthermore, economic liberalization measures paved the way for increased trade and United States investment in India. In 1988 the improved economic climate resulted in the conclusion of a deal for a Pepsi-Cola plant and the signing of a bilateral tax treaty. In 1989 United States investment in India reached US$1 billion.
In the 1980s, the Indian and United States governments had divergent views on a wide range of international issues, including Afghanistan, Cambodia, the Middle East, and Central America. Serious differences also remained over United States policy toward Pakistan and the issue of nuclear proliferation. India was repeatedly incensed in the 1980s when the United States provided advanced military technology and other assistance to Pakistan. New Delhi also found objectionable Washington's unwillingness to cut off military assistance to Islamabad despite United States concerns about Pakistan's covert nuclear program. For its part, Washington continued to urge New Delhi to sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and, after the successful test launch of the Indian Agni intermediate-range ballistic missile in May 1989, called on New Delhi to refrain from developing a ballistic missile capability by adhering to the restrictions of the Missile Technology Control Regime. India rejected these appeals on the grounds that it had a right to develop such technology and that the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the United States-sponsored Missile Technology Control Regime discriminated against nonnuclear states.
Bureaucratic and private-sector resistance to foreign participation in the economy, infrastructure problems, bureaucratic red tape, and legal problems remained formidable obstacles to significant Indian-United States economic cooperation. In the late 1980s, India had differences with the United States over improving its legal protection of intellectual property rights, opening its markets to American service industries, and liberalizing its foreign investment regulations. In April 1991, the Office of the United States Trade Representative placed India on Washington's watch list over intellectual property rights issues. Six months later, the United States gave India a three-month grace period before imposing retaliatory sanctions against India's pharmaceutical industry for inadequate patent protection. India resisted United States pressure to adopt a less protectionist stance in the Uruguay Round of negotiations to renew the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).
In the early 1990s, economic reforms permitted a qualitative breakthrough in relations between India and the United States. Washington was instrumental in speeding a US$1.8 billion IMF credit that New Delhi obtained in January 1991 to deal with a severe external-debt-payments crisis. In 1990 India and the United States signed a double taxation pact designed to facilitate American investment in India, further breaking a thirty-year deadlock in economic relations. The United States provided only modest bilateral economic assistance in the form of food aid but was India's largest trading partner and an important source of investments and technology. In December 1990, the United States approved the export of a second Cray supercomputer for the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, Karnataka, although the deal fell through two years later because of India's unwillingness to accept safeguards to prevent the computer's diversion to military uses.
The Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989 had led Washington to reassess its relationship with Pakistan, with positive ramifications for New Delhi. Without containment of the Soviet Union as the driving factor behind close Pakistani-United States ties, and concerns mounting about Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, the United States suspended military and economic assistance to that country in October 1990. New Delhi appreciated this action and was relieved in summer 1991 when the United States Congress voted not to include India in the Pressler Amendment, which forbade United States assistance to Pakistan if it violated nuclear nonproliferation criteria. Washington also took a more evenhanded approach to the Kashmir problem in 1990, urging both antagonists to resolve their dispute peacefully under the terms of the Simla Accord. Furthermore, the United States began pressuring Pakistan to end its support for Kashmiri and Punjabi Sikh separatists. This pressure was in addition to efforts initiated in the 1980s to prevent assistance to Sikh terrorists from the Sikh expatriate community in the United States (see Rajiv Gandhi, ch. 1). In the wake of terrorist bombings in Bombay in March 1993--widely believed in India to have been instigated by Pakistanis--and stepped-up activities among Kashmiri militants, Indian politicians and the media reveled in the possibility that the United States might declare Pakistan a practitioner of state-sponsored terrorism. Washington's decision in July 1993 not to declare Pakistan a terrorist-supporting state displeased many prominent Indians, and Indian political analysts accused the United States of having a "double standard" in regard to specific states sponsoring terrorism.
Military cooperation also grew. Exchanges of senior military officials became frequent, a high-level bilateral conference on regional security affairs was held, and Minister of Defence Sharad Pawar journeyed to Washington in April 1992 to discuss arms supplies and military technology. Not only did United States navy ships make occasional ports calls in India, but the two navies conducted their first-ever joint exercise in May 1992. Indian officials came to have a greater appreciation of United States interests in maintaining a military presence on Diego Garcia and in the Persian Gulf.
In 1993, India and the United States appeared committed to improve relations and bilateral cooperation despite differences over India's refusal to sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to participate in discussions with the United States, Russia, China, and Pakistan on establishing a South Asian nuclear-free zone. Nevertheless, Washington directed its efforts to creating a climate of restraint between New Delhi and Islamabad in order to freeze or roll back their nuclear weapons programs. However, India and the United States remained wary of each other's long-term strategy regionally and globally.
Some Indian political analysts criticize the United States for following a "two-track policy." On the one hand, Washington has supported New Delhi's economic reform and has facilitated international loans to India, but, on the other, it has relentlessly pursued an agenda to force India's accession to United States nonproliferation goals and has used human rights issues to try to force India to meet Washington's political objections. Moreover, many Indians have expressed worries that, with the emergence of the United States as the sole superpower, and as the leader of a Western-dominated coalition after the Persian Gulf War, Washington might attempt to impose its own standards for democratic values, human rights, and free markets. India fears that a United States vision of a new world order not only would hurt the interests of Third World countries economically and politically, but also would damage India's drive to become a leading power in a multipolar system. Washington's decision not to place Pakistan on its list of nations that sponsor terrorism and its successful efforts in getting Russia to cancel the sale of cryogenic engines to India are seen as detrimental to good Indian-United States relations.
In the midst of increasing anti-United States political rhetoric and newspaper headlines, Indian and United States officials have seemed to agree on only one thing, that bilateral relations had reached their lowest point in two decades. Observers in both countries believe that the administration of President William Clinton places a low priority on relations with India despite the fact that the United States has become India's prime trade partner. Against this backdrop, Prime Minister Rao visited the United States in May 1994 for an uneventful round of talks with President Clinton, who encouraged India's economic reforms. Six memorandums of understanding were signed with the intent of expanding official contacts, reviewing and updating a 1984 understanding on high-technology transfer, enhancing defense cooperation, stimulating bilateral ties, and establishing a business partnership initiative.
High-level visits to India in early 1995 portended greater stability in India-United States relations. Secretary of Defense William J. Perry visited New Delhi in January to sign a "landmark agreement" on military cooperation that was seen by some local observers as a convergence in India-United States security perceptions after nearly fifty years of divergent viewpoints (see National Security Challenges, ch. 10). Following the Perry visit was a commercial mission led by Secretary of Commerce Ronald H. Brown that also occurred in January. Agreements signed by Indian and United States businesses during the visit resulted in US$7 billion in contracts and investments in the communications, health care, insurance, finance, and automotive sectors. Some of the deals consummated were intended to build the infrastructure needed by foreign firms to do business in India. In March 1995, Hilary Rodham Clinton, the wife of the United States president, toured India as part of an extensive South Asian goodwill tour. In April, Secretary of the Treasury Robert E. Rubin visited New Delhi to sign a bilateral investment protection treaty reflecting the substantial increases in United States investment in India since 1991 and Washington's encouragement to India to apply for Agency for International Development loans.
From the late 1940s to the mid-1960s, independent India's most important relationship was with Britain. New Delhi and London had special relations because of common historical ties, political institutions, interest in economic development, high levels of trade between India and Britain, and British investment in India. Despite this special relationship, Nehru's policy of nonalignment was designed, in part, to prevent India from becoming too dependent on Britain and other former colonial powers. In spite of cooperation with Australia, Britain, and Canada in the Commonwealth of Nations--which was established by Britain in 1931--India's nonaligned stance frequently put India at odds with Britain, the United States, and other Western countries on Cold War and anticolonial issues (see Commonwealth of Nations, this ch.). Nevertheless, common democratic principles and the willingness of the developed countries to provide economic assistance prompted India to build modest but constructive relations with these countries.
India's relations with Britain remain important. India has so successfully diversified its economic ties that London's domination is no longer a consideration for New Delhi; British trade, investment, and aid, however, are still significant. A substantial community of people of Indian origin live in Britain, contributing to the business and intellectual life of the country. Economic relations were improving in the early and mid-1990s with the implementation of India's economic reforms. Political differences stemming from India's nonaligned stance tended to dissipate with the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the apartheid system in South Africa.
From the mid-1960s until the early 1980s, the difficulties encountered in conducting trade and investing in India caused countries such as Japan and the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) to seek more fruitful commercial opportunities elsewhere in the developing world. In the sphere of international politics, the intricacies of balancing ties with India and Pakistan, India's tilt toward the Soviet Union beginning in 1971, divergent views on nuclear proliferation issues, and the situations in Afghanistan and Cambodia left little room for improvement of relations with Japan and Western Europe. Modest moves taken to liberalize the Indian economy in the early and mid-1980s and increased availability of private investment and official developmental assistance from developed countries, however, provided India with the opportunity to increase trade and obtain aid and investment from Japan and Europe. Indian trade with countries of the European Economic Community rose dramatically, and Japan became India's largest aid donor. By the late 1980s, Indian, West European, and Japanese leaders exchanged regular visits.
In the early 1990s, expanding Indian exports and attracting investment from developed countries became a major priority in India's bilateral relations. India developed closer ties with Berlin--now the capital of a united Germany--Tokyo, and the European Economic Community (later the European Union) to promote Indian economic interests and enhance its diplomatic maneuverability. Japan remained India's major source of bilateral assistance, and Berlin was New Delhi's largest trading partner in the European Economic Community. Nevertheless, India and the developed countries had differences over security and nuclear issues and the attachment of political criteria to developmental assistance.
Relations with Australia suffered in 1990 and 1991 as India expressed its displeasure with Australia's sale of Mirage fighters to Pakistan. In 1991 the German government announced it was cutting official aid to India because of "excessive armament," while the British, Canadian, and Japanese governments warned India that future assistance would be cut back if India did not curtail its high levels of military spending, which the developed countries contend suppressed economic development. In addition, Britain, France, and Germany also increased pressure on India to sign the nonproliferation treaty, and France cautioned India that any future agreements to supply India with nuclear material and technology must adhere to "full-scope safeguards" to prevent diversion to nuclear weapons production. Finally, India remained concerned that developed countries would impose human rights conditions as criteria for economic aid.
During the Cold War, India's participation in the UN was notable for its efforts to resist the imposition of superpower disputes on UN General Assembly debates and to focus international attention on the problems of economic development. In the early 1950s, India attempted unsuccessfully to help China join the UN. India's mediatory role in resolving the stalemate over prisoners of war in Korea led to the signing of the armistice ending the Korean War. India chaired the five-member Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission while the Indian Custodian Force supervised the process of interviews and repatriation that followed. The UN entrusted Indian armed forces with subsequent peace missions in the Middle East, Cyprus, and the Congo (since 1971, Zaire). India also served as chair of the three international commissions for supervision and control for Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos established by the 1954 Geneva Accords on Indochina (see Peacekeeping Operations, ch. 10).
Although not a permanent member of the UN Security Council, India has been elected periodically to fill a nonpermanent seat, and during the 1991-92 period served in that capacity. In the early 1990s, New Delhi supported reform of the UN in the hope of securing a permanent seat on the Security Council. This development would recognize India's position as the second-largest population (possibly the largest in the early twenty-first century) in the world, with an economy projected by some to become the fourth largest, after China, the United States, and Japan, by 2020.
India also has served as a member of many UN bodies--including the Economic and Social Council, the Human Rights Commission, and the Disarmament Commission--and on the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency. In addition, India played a prominent role in articulating the economic concerns of developing countries in such UN-sponsored conferences as the triennial UN Conference on Trade and Development and the 1992 Conference on the Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro.
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