The people of India have spoken. A clear mandate for the UPA government has been given. While this blogger doesn’t consider the verdict to be optimal (considering UPA’s unforgivable lapses in security and foreign affairs), the decisiveness of the victory is pleasing because it allows a less fractious Central government to go about its business. The mandate against the BJP is very clear — the people don’t want any part of their divisive politics. A campaign that was overshadowed by the venom spewing bigotry of Varun Gandhi was only bound for failure. Uttar Pradesh has told Mayawati what it thinks of her self glorifying statues in Lucknow. And Prakash Karat stands amidst the shattered pieces of his non-ideology.
Where does India go from here? The Filter Coffee has repeatedly drawn attention to the dilapidated state of our local law enforcement forces, and national and border defense mechanisms. They need addressing immediately. When Chidambaram took over as Home Minister, he instituted a few changes, come cosmetic, some concrete.
The Congress must stop pretending that it is tied at the hip to the Unlawful Activities Prevention (Amendment) Act and work with the Opposition to construct a meaningful anti-terror law for the nation. Our local law enforcement agencies need money, equipment and training. Our national forces face severe shortages in equipment, which can only be addressed by correcting India’s defense procurement mechanism. The shackles need to be loosened from our intelligence agencies.
India faces two immediate threats with regard to terrorism, from the Maoists and Jihadi groups. With regard to external Jihadi threats, there are some elements that India can control and some that it can’t. However, the Maoist menace is well within India’s realm and decisive action is needed to eliminate this plague that has consumed a third of India.
On the foreign affairs side, the Subcontinent is on fire. Sri Lanka has found itself an effective counterweight to India in China, and its dismissal of India’s pleas was the most telling aspect of this relationship as war against the LTTE drew to a close. Similarly, India lost the plot in Nepal during the UPA administration and as tensions continue to rise between the army and the Chinese backed Maoist government, India has a great opportunity to play the honest broker and demonstrate to that nation that India wants peace and stability in Nepal.
The United States is blowing a sigh of relief that the month long elections in India are at an end. Obama’s immediate concern is to get India to focus on the Af-Pak issue. The repeated calls for India to reduce troop levels along the western border are as absurd as they are misplaced and the UPA would do well not to wilt under American pressure as they have so often done in the past.
With Pakistan, India must continue to use every tool at its disposal to pressure that country to dismantle not just “terror” infrastructure, but specifically the Punjabi-terror outfits that target India. The Pakistanis must be pressed to ensure that those responsible for 26/11 are brought to justice. Pakistan’s “investigation”, as farcical as it was, is now a casualty of all the attention to the existential threat that country faces today. Above all, the UPA must impress upon Islamabad that for India to show any interest in rekindling the “peace process”, there needs to be very credible action from Pakistan on both dismantling terror infrastructure armed at India, and bringing to justice those that were responsible for 26/11.
The mandate for the Congress is conclusive. Manmohan Singh can either show the country that he can act convincingly to address the challenges that face us, as he did in 1991, or he can falter and stumble from one embarrassing embroilment to another as he has done over the past five years. The ball is in his court. What’s it going to be, Mr. Prime Minister?