The year 2006 has passed into history and as one steps into the new year of 2007 the time is appropriate for a national audit of India's achievements, failures, and lack of success in the year that has gone past. In terms of achievements, the year of 2006 presented the image of a 'Shining India' on the economic front only. India's economy kept surging ahead as evident from the SENSEX touching new heights in the stock markets and the sight of major Indian entrepreneurs foraying into the international economic arena for global acquisitions of major firms. India's such remarkable strides towards an economically 'Shining India' cannot be claimed as a personal achievement of the present Congress Government. It has emerged as a cumulative result of the irreversible decision of economic liberalization taken by the late PM Narasimha Rao in the early 1990's, followed through in the eight years of BJP Government rule and carried forward by the present Government haltingly due to opposition from its main coalition partner, the Leftists Parties. It is also a tribute to the entrepreneurial skills of India's business class.
India's other notable achievement in 2006 is not once again of the Government but of India's Judiciary. In unprecedented judicial activism, India's highest courts checked and balanced the runaway impulses of India's polity from Constitutional norms and proprieties. India in 2006 witnessed the sentence of life imprisonment on a Cabinet Minister brought in twice into the Cabinet despite his tainted record like a number of others in the Cabinet. The Courts after decades meted out punishment in high profile murder cases involving the sons of senior politicians and police officer earlier let free by presenting faulty evidence under pressure.
In marked contrast to the above the 2006 images emanating from India's political are depressing. What are the striking images of 2006 that the ruling Congress Government has projected in the political field? The images that come to the fore are one of socially divisive policies in terms of quota reservations being extended to institutions of higher learning and rank appeasement and over-pampering of the Indian Muslim minority. Such policies of the ruling party were not impelled by any higher and noble imperatives but by sheer crass political opportunism to sustain their captive vote-banks with an eye on a number of State Assembly elections in 2007.
The year 2006 was politically marked by an increasing confrontation of the ruling Congress Party and its main ally, the Communist Parties, with India's Judiciary trying to rein-in the utter disregard for India's Constitution and constitutional proprieties. India's founding fathers had wisely devised in its system of checks and balances of judicial review of laws enacted by the Parliament. It was strange to witness this being challenged by the Government and the House Speaker to the contrary.
In the foreign policy field, the year 2006 was marked by a renewed vigor in the appeasement policies of the Indian Prime Minister towards Pakistan and its military dictator General Musharraf. Pakistan had exhibited no tangible intentions of turning a new leaf in its terrorism and proxy war against India. The vicious Mumbai multiple train bombings and the Malegaon bombings were the handiwork of Pakistan and Pakistanis as per the evidence presented by the Government's own agencies. To top it all it was horrifying to witness in 2006 at the Havana Summit, the Indian Prime Minister signing with the Pakistani General an India-Pakistan Joint Mechanism to Fight Terrorism.
These appeasement policies of the Congress Government toward Pakistan has opened it to charges of being pressurized by the United States, of pleasing Indian Muslims that the Government is well disposed to Muslims at large and that the present Prime Minister is obsessed with winning a Nobel Peace Prize by brokering an India-Pakistan peace accord.
The year 2006 also witnessed India under pressure of the Indian Communist Parties gifting away the Himalayan buffer state of Nepal to the Nepalese Maoists. In the process India's national security stands endangered.
In the past year India got no respite from Pakistan-initiated terrorism despite the Government's soft and appeasing approaches towards Pakistan. Besides terrorism incidents virtually every month, the 7/11 Mumbai train bombings and the Malegaon bombings forcefully brought to the fore Pakistan's continued asymmetric warfare against India and the Indian Government's hesitation to blame Pakistan despite evidence and hold it to account.
The other striking image of 2006 in terms of Pakistan's terrorism attacks against India was the evidence of subverting the fringe elements of the Indian Muslim community in its terrorism war and extending its terrorism war to South India and targeting economic targets.
In the national security field, the past year has not witnessed any serious efforts to make up the deficiency of nearly 140 combat fighter aircraft of the Indian Air Force despite constant pleas of the Air Force Chief. It gravely affects India's war-preparedness. It seems that this Government has thousands of crores of Rupees to waste on hare-brained schemes related to quota reservations and minority affairs but no time and money to address serious deficiencies in India's defence posture and requirements.
So what messages does the year 2006 carry in terms of the striking images that have emerged. In my estimation the messages seem to be:
In the ultimate analysis, India's status as a global player will not be determined only by its economic resurgence and sustained growth or the independence of its Judiciary but by its quality of governance and national cohesion. India's polity has been failing in providing good governance and the motivation for national cohesion resulting in a growing contempt for the Indian political class. This is not a healthy sign for an otherwise vibrant democracy like India represented by its independent Judiciary and a growing civil society vigilant to pounce on aberrations by its political establishment.