Slow, but steadyThe Indian model [Archives:2005/824/Opinion]

March 14 2005

By Prof. Dr. Abdulaziz al-Tarb
For The Yemen Times

India has been able for more than half a century to prove itself a singular model among developing countries. It has set up a constitutional system of governance based on secularist and democratic foundations.

It has succeeded to move out of a system dominated by one party into a multi-party state. Indian leaders realized early that a sub-continent country with a wide range of diversity cannot remain stable only on democratic principles.

What is distinctive about this country is its lack of a suitable environment that fosters democracy: a developing country with high poverty and illiteracy rates; a billion people speaking hundreds of languages and embracing different religions.

Nevertheless, India enjoys a deeply-rooted democratic system. It has a stable constitutional system which ensures a peaceful transfer of power among political forces; it has impartial independent judiciary despite sporadic pressures by the executive authority; free press thrives over there; elections are regularly conducted; increasing participation by voters from marginalized classes (minorities, outcasts); high political awareness of Indian women as indicated by the women's high participation rate in the parliamentary elections and the increasing number of women candidates winning a reasonable portion of the seats.

This is different from the Arab World in which political participation is low, especially among women, youth and the educated. Many factors have helped stabilize democracy in India most importantly the leadership's commitment to the democratic model out of a belief that it is the only frame able to bind India.

The federal system also is an appropriate form of government that fits pluralistic communities and boasts participation. This has given birth to a climate suiting the growth of political parties and lobbies which the constitution allows without religious or ethnic constraints. Thus, parties represent the whole political spectrum.

The Indian partisan system is one of the oldest in Asia and it has never been put aside for the sake of development, as it is the case in the Arab countries which claim that economic reforms are prior to the political ones. Indians trie to adapt development to democracy. In this regard, Nehru said, ” I prefer slow development with democracy to development with dictatorship.”

Another phenomenal observation is the recent appointment of a Prime Minister from the Sikh minority (less than 10% of the Indian people). This means that India conforms to political and legal criteria and also takes into account ethnic and religious diversity.

These are some facts from the Indian experience and its genesis. Regardless of criticism against it, India's experience has been able to achieve two major things: introducing stable democratic conventions into the country, thus safeguarding the Indian society from disintegration, and showing political will to preserve stability and push development forward. Despite wars, conflicts and problems, India proceeded unflinchingly in the way of economic development.

Arabs always blame colonization for having given them a legacy of problems. India however, has perpetuated the advantages of colonization. It has actually made use of them such as the modern administrative system, a working railway network (fourth largest worldwide at the time of independence), and the adoption of the English language as a main subject in curricula.

Moreover, India's concept of independence is comprehensive: it did not limit it to the political aspect. It stretched it to cover economy to avoid needing anyone's help and culture by conserving its national and cultural identity internally and externally.

Finally, we may say that India's model should be a lesson for Arabs. However, it shouldn't be replicated to the letter because a country's democratic evolution is the result of historic, cultural and geographic elements. The essential achievement of the Indian leadership over the previous six decades is perfect success in infusing the belief in democracy into the Indian's mindset and political convictions.

Lessons are galore, but we hardly make use of them, especially as preparations for elections are underway in different places of the Arab World.