Home truths in New York
Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s reference to the UPA’s coalition partners at a speech made in New York seems to have stirred up a bit of a storm in a tea cup back home. Mrs Gandhi said that though a great deal is made in the public domain of the opinions expressed by those who support the coalition, there is no cause for alarm. In other words, she was trying to convey to the public and the Government of India’s most important strategic and trading partner, the US, that the government is firmly entrenched and not likely to fall, as many Cassandras have been predicting. Her other remarks on the strengths of India’s democracy and the ability of an often fractious coalition to arrive at a consensus must also have been reassuring to many India-watchers who have been concerned at the often seemingly irreconcilable positions taken by the Congress and its Left allies. Of course, the differences on the nuclear deal stand out.
Her remarks also indicate that her government is determined to go ahead with the deal, while taking into account all opposing views. Mrs Gandhi has done well to play down internal differences within the country at an international forum. We have enough platforms and mechanisms within to debate and discuss controversial issues, the nuclear deal with the US being one of them. The CPI’s criticism that Mrs Gandhi did not mention the way forward despite articulating the differences with allies does not hold water. Once again, these are not matters to be discussed abroad, where she also spoke of disarmament and the relevance and legacy of Mahatma Gandhi. Rahul Gandhi’s presence by her side throughout the trip was also not lost on political pundits back home. Clearly, he will play a greater role in big-ticket policy issues in the days to come.
Instead of fretting and fuming at Mrs Gandhi’s remarks, the Left would do well to wait until October 5, when a meeting between the UPA and the Left is scheduled. A country of India’s stature must display a degree of maturity when on the global stage. Partners count on the maturity of Indian democracy when doing business with us, whether on the nuclear deal or other areas. This is clearly what Mrs Gandhi sought to indicate, albeit tangentially. As is its wont, the Left will engage in some sabre-rattling. But, as past experience has shown, it will calm down and live to fight another day.