Can Manmohan Singh redeem himself?
Dr Manmohan Singh has an altogether more difficult job this time. When he become prime minister in 2004, it was after Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s NDA government had begun the strategic tango with the United States, galvanised the ‘peace process’ with Pakistan and arrived at a positive bilateral relationship with China. The neighbourhood was also relatively stable. The external environment that Dr Manmohan Singh inherits from Dr Manmohan Singh is significantly worse in some places, and in crisis mode in many others.
The Obama administration is determined to be in the “not-Bush” mode as much out of ideological conviction as out of antipathy for George W Bush and his policies. The ‘peace process’ with Pakistan has proven to be a disaster and after 26/11, the UPA government has put its Pakistan strategy on auto-pilot mode. China is off the great power launchpad and is flexing its muscles. The neighbourhood is in crisis. Dr Manmohan Singh could not have left a worse legacy for Dr Manmohan Singh. (And we’re not even talking about the economy)
The good news is that the old millstones are gone: the new UPA government won’t have to depend on Prakash Karat and his comrades and might even be free of the Congress Party’s own albatrosses like Natwar Singh and Mani Shankar Aiyar. So Dr Manmohan Singh will have greater freedom to—and fewer excuses not to—push the kind of foreign policy that India needs. The presence of the DMK in the UPA might complicate Sri Lanka policy, but otherwise, there’s little to constrain Dr Singh.
The Acorn does not subscribe to the Manmohan Singh fan club (okay, that’s an understatement) but it has strongly supported the UPA government on the India-US nuclear deal. We now challenge him to use the current crises and set right the course of Indian foreign policy right.