EU Remains Silent, As Of Now

Written by Malcolm Subhan | Updated: May 15 2004, 05:30am hrs
You would have thought that congratulations from the 25-nation European Union (EU) to the worlds largest democracy were in order. That India, with an electorate far bigger than the EUs total population, should have successfully carried out general elections, and that too, electronically, surely deserved praise. The EU, prompt to condemn developing countries, including India, for their failings, has remained silent. The congratulations will come, of course. The EU congratulated Panama only last Thursday on the successful outcome of its general elections, which were held on May 2.

The most flattering explanation is that Europeans recognise India as the worlds largest democracy, and take for granted that elections will be free and fair. There was no question, for example, of sending observers to monitor the elections, although the European Parliament has sent observers to some of Indias neighbours for this purpose.

There is no doubt that India is quite far down the EUs list of priorities. This reflects a certain indifference to the EU on the part of New Delhi also. The omens for a change in policy are very good, however. After all, Indias next ambassador to the EU, Rajan Abhyankar, is no stranger to Brussels; neither is the foreign secretary, Shashank. Both were posted to Brussels, albeit several years ago. And a potential foreign minister in the new government, Mani Shankar Aiyar, was so active in promoting closer EU-India ties during his posting to Brussels, that he claimed that every day is India day at the European Commission!

The Indian elections were closely followed, of course. The Congress Partys victory has surprised everyone here also. Under the headline The revenge of the Italian, the Belgian newspaper, Le Soir, noted that Sonia Gandhi, who was ceaselessly criticized by nationalist Hindus because of her Italian origins, managed what seemed virtually impossible: lead the Congress Party to victory.

Under the headline The oppositions surprise victory, another Belgian newspaper, La Libre Belgique, noted that against all expectations the opposition in India, regrouped behind Mrs Sonia Gandhis Congress Party, won the general elections. And both papers noted that Atal Bihari Vajpayee had submitted his resignation to the countrys President, and that Mrs Gandhi has promised a strong, stable and secular government.