India's Singh Completes Year in Power

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Byline: SUNRITA SEN Deutsche Presse Agentur

NEW DELHI Indias United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh completed one year in power Sunday with low-key celebrations marked by the absence of its left allies.

Singh, a former economist who is credited with setting India on the path of economic liberalization during an earlier stint as finance minister, was scheduled to release a report card of his governments performance.

A low-key man himself, known for his honesty and integrity, Singh has given himself 60 percent for performance, a view which seems to be endorsed by opinion polls carried out by various media groups over the past week.

A survey conducted by the news magazine Week found more than 70 percent of respondents felt Singh had fared well and rated him Indias most-honest politician. More than 61 percent felt India had progressed under his leadership.

The job of prime minister was thrust on Singh when Congress Party president, Italian-born Sonia Gandhi, declined the position. At the time, analysts had expressed doubts on whether he would be able to pull along a diverse coalition of 14 parties.

There were doubts too on how effectively he would be able to function with a second center of power vested in Sonia Gandhi as chairwoman of the UPA coalition, cobbled together with Indias left parties.

A year later, Singh is still there. "In the cruel world of Indian coalition politics, sheer survival is an achievement," said veteran political commentator Inder Singh Malhotra.

But Singh has more than survival to his credit.

The biggest achievement of his government is the upswing in India-Pakistan relations. The bus service across a Kashmir divided between the two nuclear-armed South Asian neighbors is perhaps one of the strongest gestures that India and Pakistan are serious about resolving all their differences.

"The UPA government showed maturity in continuing the momentum set in motion by the previous government of Atal Behari Vajpayee," said former diplomat G. Parthasarathy.

Analysts agree that Singh has displayed diplomatic skill and political dexterity in pursuing Indias interests in world affairs.

Ties with China have improved, greater cooperation with Japan has been initiated, Indias policy of improving relations with Southeast Asia has been bolstered and a critical phase of dialogue with the United States on the nuclear issue has begun.

The UPA government has also managed to put the economy and social concerns on top of the agenda, while divisive issues such as building a Ram temple at the northern Indian town of Ayodhya have gone on the back burner. …