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An Indian solution for European crisis?

What exactly did Manmohan Singh tell his G20 counterparts at the summit meeting of powerhouse nations in Cannes? Europe is at sixes and sevens over, well, the future of Europe, and Singh’s quiet demeanour should have helped to calm nerves in the French seaside resort.

world Updated: Nov 11, 2011 01:43 IST
Dipankar De Sarkar

What exactly did Manmohan Singh tell his G20 counterparts at the summit meeting of powerhouse nations in Cannes? Europe is at sixes and sevens over, well, the future of Europe, and Singh’s quiet demeanour should have helped to calm nerves in the French seaside resort.

In fact, the bickering leaders of Europe could learn from the way India handled the aftermath of its financial crisis and the way political parties set aside ideological differences to cushion the rise of Manmohan Singh, the technocratic outsider, as Prime Minister.

Technocrats are on their way, briefcases blazing, into the parliaments of Europe to help rescue this continent. The two most profligate countries are Greece, ground zero of the Eurozone crisis, and Italy, a country that is too big to fail but too to be bailed out.

The two men who will run the caretaker administrations are Lucas Papademos, former Vice President of the European Central Bank, in Greece, and Mario Monti, a tough former EU Commissioner in Italy. But, unlike in India, both these respected economists are having to cope with grumbling politicians even before they have started.

In volatile Greece, politicians from both the left and right — who never tire of reminding us that is the Greeks who gave the world democracy — have panicked at the tough pre-conditions set by Papademos. “(PM George) Papandreou and (conservative opposition leader) Antonis Samaras agreed on Sunday on a government to save the country and are now doing whatever they can to undermine it before it even starts its work,” said the news website, Vima.

In Italy, parts of the ruling PDL party are still opposed to a Monti-led technocratic government, favouring immediate general elections instead. “There’s a discussion going on,” a PDL spokesman told Reuters. “We have to decide whether to support elections or a Monti government. We haven’t yet untied the knot.”

Do technocratic governments necessarily subvert the will of the people? Not if you do it the Indian way, by forging political consensus. It is, however, a slow and painstaking process and there is no guarantee that parliaments will always approve economic reforms.

In a measure of how desperate things are getting in Europe, even the sober Italian business daily, Il Sole 24 Ore, pleaded in a banner headline this week: “Hurry Up.” But perhaps Europe will now think twice before routinely advising India to “hurry up?”