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5/31/04 - DEMOCRACY IN INDIA - 2004-06-01

As a result of recent parliamentary elections, Manmohan Singh is India’s new prime minister. Mr. Singh is a seventy-one-year-old economist, and a member of the Sikh minority. He is the first non-Hindu to lead an Indian government. Thirteen years ago, as India’s finance minister, Mr. Singh reformed the country’s socialist economy.

Prime Minister Singh now heads a coalition government, led by the Congress Party which had been out of power for eight years. The Congress Party coalition’s victory appears to reflect a feeling by millions of impoverished Indians that they should be benefiting more from the country’s booming economy.

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says that the U.S. looks forward to working with India’s new government:

“We congratulate the Congress party on its success in the election. As in any well-established democracy, Prime Minister [Atal Behari] Vajpayee and his cabinet have accepted the decision of the electorate. Once again we’re shown how strong and how deep are the roots of Indian democracy.”

Mr. Singh’s coalition, called the United Progressive Alliance, includes nearly a dozen political parties. The government has pledged to focus on creating new jobs and investing in the rural areas of India.

State Department spokesman Boucher says that the U.S. expects that India will work “to find common ground and resolve longstanding differences” with neighboring Pakistan:

“We’re pleased to see people on both sides reiterate their commitment to that process.... [I]t seems that people on both sides want to continue.”

The U.S. has “a solid agenda with the Indian people,” says U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, and the U.S. “see[s] no reason that that agenda should not continue to be pursued with the new government.”