Notes on the Atrocities
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Wednesday, May 19, 2004  

Sonia out, Manmohan Singh in. Singh is an economist and former professor who was born in what is now Pakistan. A bit more:

For India, his swearing-in will be historic, and not just because of the extraordinary political drama of the last week. A Sikh, Mr. Singh will be India's first non-Hindu prime minister. In a milestone that says much about this vast nation's diversity and capacity for co-existence, Mrs. Gandhi, an Italian-born woman raised a Roman Catholic, is making way for a Sikh prime minister who will be sworn in by a Muslim president, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

Born in western Punjab in 1932, Mr. Singh was educated at Punjab University, then at Cambridge University. He later earned his doctorate from Oxford University. He has held almost every important political post in the country, from governor of the Reserve Bank of India to economic advisor for prime ministers starting with Indira Gandhi....

[On his 1991 economic reforms] Mr. Singh quickly devalued the rupee, though he did it in two stages to avoid provoking political opposition. He also began dismantling the "license permit raj," the complex, suffocating system of permits and permissions that essentially gave bureaucrats control over business decisions. He lowered taxes and tariffs, initiated deregulation and began opening the economy to foreign investment and competition.

Sonia, for her tireless, behind-the-scenes work for the past decade, in some senses deserved to be rewarded with as PM. But Singh, who has been in politics since 1971, also richly deserves the helm. Personal politics aside, this is probably a far better result for India. Sonia, no matter how capable she may have been, would always have been dogged by the BJP for being Italian. She would have been further hampered by distrust on both the left and right as she tried to forge an effective economic policy.

Singh, on the other hand, comes in with great credibility across the board. In authoring the liberalisation of the 1990s, he pleased free-market types. But he has never been a free-market economist in the GOP mode and has credibility on the left, as well. In terms of foreign policy, having a Sikh in office immediately changes the dynamic of India-Pakistan relations. He is described as a "multilateralist"--meaning he will seek international solutions to global conflict. While this will alienate him from Bush, it will be a welcome move for India. And, as our own DF notes, he's a "towering intellect." All things considered, Singh is a fantastic choice.

posted by Jeff | 7:45 AM |
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