May 21, 2009 3:00 am

India is not alone in befriending repressive regimes

From Ms Suruchi Mohan.

Sir, Gideon Rachman writes as if sleaze were the preserve of Indian democracy (“Indian democracy has an ugly side”, Comment, May 19). While I can refute Mr Rachman on several points, I will, for the sake of brevity, limit myself to two.

* Every nation, regardless of the system of government, acts in self-interest. If India does find it necessary to cosy up to Burma, as Mr Rachman speculates, this act will not be any different from the US’s support of dictators. Indeed, for all its promotion of democratic ideals, the US has a dismal history of befriending repressive regimes. Consider the US’s decades-long relationship with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, among others.

* It is a particular strength of India that it can include Maoists or other communists in its democratic process and does not feel the necessity to persecute to death those who follow a different ideal. I am not condoning violence perpetrated by them or extremists of any stripe, for all killing is abhorrent. But India's inability to control the Naxalite insurgency has more to do with its weak rule of law than with its form of government. Democracy only allows the news to get out.

Suruchi Mohan,
Los Altos, CA, US

From Mr Piyush Jain.

Sir, When Gideon Rachman says India has been a functioning democracy for almost the entire period since independence (“Indian democracy has an ugly side”, May 18), he refers to the two years of “forced” rule of Indira Gandhi between 1975 and 1977.

Those two years saw high productivity; public corruption was low and to some extent the rule was in line with China today. But that period is still seen as a black spot in independent Indian history by almost every Indian, just because it was not democratic.

India’s post-independence period should be seen in two parts: pre-reforms (before 1991) and post-reforms. Since 1991, the media, election commission and courts have been granted a de facto independence and therefore “real” democracy has flourished. The fact that we know about the criminal charges against some MPs, and that they are recorded, is a tangible sign of improvement. Many “tainted” politicians were shown the door in these recent elections.

As for cosying up with the Burmese junta, India does not have a choice there. If it does not do it, China will.

India boasts the largest functioning democracy and, in spite of the Maoist insurgency, high illiteracy and poverty, has intelligently elected a unifying government.

Piyush Jain,
Harrow, UK

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