India Changes Course: Golden Jubilee to Millennium

India Changes Course: Golden Jubilee to Millennium

India Changes Course: Golden Jubilee to Millennium

India Changes Course: Golden Jubilee to Millennium

Synopsis

This study describes and analyzes the significant political events that occurred between the fiftieth anniversary of Indian Independence and the coming of the third millennium. It challenges much of the prevailing public image of India based upon the mistaken notion that it is still the country of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. The caste-less society that was identified in its Constitution as one of free India's goals has become a society in which the salience of caste membership is greater today than in 1947.

Excerpt

During the middle decade of the 20th century, India occupied an honored place in the international community. Led by the living memory of Mahatma Gandhi and the statesmanship of Jawaharlal Nehru, it was not only one of the postcolonial countries with a promising democratic future, but the keystone of a nonaligned movement that sought to play the role of a constructive third force in a bipolar world. It was a secular state with stable one-party rule and a socialist economy, dedicated to nuclear disarmament and world peace. It would not be an overstatement to say that the India of the mid-1900s was one of the nations of the world that might have helped over time to guide mankind to a better future.

As the third millennium dawned, India was once again receiving world attention but now as a potential problem rather than as a guiding light for the international community. Its religious and social foundations were basically the same, but, on the political and economic surface of its life, it was a very different India. It was nuclear weapons state. Its armed forces, which numbered 250,000 when it gained Independence, now totaled 1.3 million, the fourth largest military establishment in the world. While its democratic processes had become more vigorous, the secular political culture that had prevailed during the 1950s and 1960s, the golden age of the Congress Party, had given way to a divisive communalism led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) but practiced by all parties. Stable one-party rule had been replaced by unstable coalition governments dependent for support on a growing number of regional parties. the Nehru dynasty, which had ruled the nation for over three decades, was still alive but in the person of a foreign-born member by marriage.

India's South Asian neighborhood was also very different from what it had been on August 15, 1947. the two principal powers in the region were now armed with nuclear weapons. Conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, which had begun as early as Partition days, was being pursued with renewed

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