India in the 2000’s

At the turn of the century, the Indian subcontinent presented itself as a reality undergoing a profound transformation. The change involved all aspects, from politics to economics, up to the cultural and ideological profile. In fact, during the 1990s the model on which the country’s functioning had been based, albeit with different and problematic events, had progressively entered into crisis since its constitution.

On the political level, the decline of the Indian National Congress ( I ) had brought about the end of the system centered on the ruling party and had opened the era of grand coalitions and the rise of regional parties; on the economic level, once the centralized and statist approach inaugurated by PJ Nehru had been definitively overcome, the UI had launched a liberal policy, albeit with non-secondary elements of leadership, especially relating to the entry of multinationals, and in a decade was imposed, together with China, as a world economic power, focusing in particular on the ability to replicate Western production processes at low cost in sectors such as pharmaceuticals or information technology and in the provision of services (using a workforce with a good knowledge of English and a widespread technical preparation). In the same years, moreover, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), ruling the country from 1998 to 2004. The reference to an alleged Hindu identity contradicted one of the most qualifying traits of the so-called Indian model, secularism, that is an inclusive vision that considered citizenship as an expression of a choice independent of belonging to a particular community (more than 140 people live in the country millions of Muslims, and there are large minorities of Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians and Jews). This anti-dogmatic connotation also had its roots in the Hindu tradition itself within which, since ancient times, atheistic and skeptical currents were present, and which was articulated in a multiplicity of religious practices with a more individual than social character. Also in foreign policy the years between the 20th and 21st° sec. they were characterized by a change of course from the traditional position of non-alignment and friendly relations with the Soviet Union with a rapprochement with the United States and China. In a nation that was formed through a painful territorial division and which still remained a mosaic of different languages, religions and traditions in balance between contrasts and laborious re-compositions, the last years of the twentieth century finally saw the elements of tension prevail and contradictions accentuated: the UI, which became in 2005the eleventh economic power in the world, continued to house a quarter of the poor on the planet, boasted a university education of the highest level which was matched by an enormous mass of illiterate people. The UN Human Development Report ranked UI in 94th place in 1994 and 126th in 2006, above all due to the growth of inequalities, with an expansion of the middle class, but also with an ever greater gap between the living conditions of the new wealthy classes and those of the mass of the dispossessed. Economic inequalities also coincided with geographical inequalities: simplifying, a backward North-East was contrasted by a South-West in explosive growth, a real driving force for development. For India government and politics, please check

The new coalition government, formed after the September-October 1999 elections and led by BJP leader AB Vajpayee, launched a series of decidedly neoliberal measures that accentuated the choices made by previous governments and privileged support for production without particular attention to income redistribution and social safety nets. Above all, the rural masses were excluded from development, among whom there were several cases of death from malnutrition in a country that had achieved food self-sufficiency for decades. The government also tried to achieve, as a qualifying point of the program presented, the transformation of the UI into a Hindu state., through a reform of public education and research funding. As regards the first aspect, there was the promotion of traditional culture but, above all, the redefinition of history programs in the key of Hindu and anti-Muslim pride and the drafting of new school texts. The second objective was pursued through the control of the institutions charged with financing research and the marginalization in the universities of professors deemed too secular. These choices responded to the pressures of Hindu fundamentalism and, although partially mitigated by the more moderate wing of the government, favored the emergence of strong tensions between the various religious communities. Episodes of violence by organized groups of Hindu fundamentalists they registered against Christians and especially against Muslims.

The most dramatic situation occurred in Gujarat, where for several months starting from March 2002 a real hunt for the Muslim broke out, which took place under the complicit eye of local (the state was governed by the BJP) and central authorities, which provoked more than 2,000 dead and about 200,000 refugees. The nationalist and Hindu inspiration did not prevent a rapprochement with the United States in foreign policy – President B. Clinton visited the country in January 2000 – which was consolidated after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on 11 September 2001, when the UI became part of the anti-terrorist front led by the United States itself, even if India did not support the intervention in ̔Irāq. However, belonging to the same international camp did not initially alleviate the tension with Pakistan: in Kashmir resumed in 2001 and continued in 2002 the gun battles on the border line. There was also a resurgence of terrorist attacks in the same period: armed attacks on the Parliament of Delhi in December 2001 and on the American Center in Calcutta in January 2002., explosive devices in a market and in the vicinity of a large Bombay hotel. Because of these events, which are all attributed to Islamic fundamentalist groups, the government was once again accusing Pakistan of financing terrorism. Despite this, the decisive choice in favor of a multipolar world (Vajpayee’s speech in Srinagar in April 2003) led to a resumption of relations with China, which the prime minister visited in June 2003, and in any case paved the way for a new confrontation with Pakistan. Following the Pakistani decision to unilaterally proclaim the ceasefire in Kashmir, talks were initiated in November 2003 that led to the restoration of diplomatic relations.

The economic successes, the results in foreign policy and political stability prompted the government to close the legislature a few months early in the certainty, shared by the majority of observers, of a sure electoral victory. In general surprise, the consultations, held in April-May 2004, instead gave the victory to the coalition led by the Indian National Congress ( I ), which won 217 seats against the 185 which went to the National Democratic Alliance , led by the BJP. In particular, while the Indian National Congress won 145 seats, the BJP won 138 against the 182 of the previous consultation. However, his secular allies suffered the heaviest defeat, some of whom did not obtain any representation. The architect of the victory was SM Gandhi, who had assumed the leadership of the party in 1998 managing to renew its identity as well as democratize, at least partially, its functioning by opening it to new alliances. The coalition had presented itself with a strong appeal to the secular state and with a program which, while confirming the economic choices of the market, aimed to address the needs of the poorest strata of the population. M. Singh, the technorate who had initiated economic reforms in the 1990s, after SM Gandhi’s refusal of the post, formed a government supported from outside by the Left Front , the grouping of the radical left (59 seats). If on the subject of secularism the first measures concerned the school, on the other there was the approval in August 2005 of the law on the guaranteed minimum wage for rural families, corresponding to 70 % of families overall. The law provided for families to guarantee at least 100 days of paid work per year: each family, in which an adult had agreed to carry out a manual work of public utility proposed by the State of residence, would receive a wage for a minimum period of work of 100 days which would have coincided with the moments of stagnation of agriculture. The law, to be introduced first in 200 districts in a critical situation and therefore in the other 400, the aim was also to contrast the massive stable and seasonal emigration to the cities and to contribute to the development of the countryside both by supporting their income and by promoting the construction of infrastructures through high-level public interventions. labor intensity. The measure was also aimed at countering the Maoist-inspired armed movement of the Naxalites, whose roots had been growing in the poorest rural areas. On the international level, the executive strengthened its relations with China, with which old border disputes were resolved in April 2005, and with the United States, whose President GW Bush visited the country in March 2006.

An agreement was signed with Washington for the supply of nuclear technology, despite the fact that the IU had never signed up to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Dialogue with Pakistan was also consolidated: in September 2004 the leaders of the two countries met, and in April 2005, after sixty years, a bus line between the two areas of Kashmir was re-established; finally, on the occasion of the earthquake with its epicenter right along the border line, the border was opened in some points to facilitate the arrival of aid. The new climate of collaboration was shaken, but not interrupted, on 29 October 2005,when Delhi was hit by a new terrorist attack – according to the authorities once again of Islamic origin – which caused more than 60 deaths and a hundred injured. A further attack, which killed around 200 people, occurred in Mumbai (Bombay) in July 2006.

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