Australian Outlook

Issues Brief

19 May 2014
Colin Chapman

Many people were surprised by the outcome of the Indian election which ended years of Congress Party rule. In the world’s most populous democracy the election battle has held the country in thrall for almost a year but, as the New Yorker pointed out in a perceptive essay, almost all of the pundits, both professional and amateur, made the wrong call.

Reuters says that the landslide win of Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is the most resounding political victory in India in 30 years, giving the Hindu nationalist a mandate for sweeping economic reforms. So who is Modi? The BBC says he is loved or loathed in equal measure.

So the long Nehru-Gandhi dynasty has come to an end. The influential T.N Ninan, chairman and editor-in-chief of the Business Standard, and a guest in 2012 of the AIIA in Sydney and Canberra, says the result signifies a paradigm shift in Indian politics. Modi has now got a mandate to do what he thinks is needed to fix the economy, but needs to demonstrate he’s the kind of reforming prime minister the country needs. However the US Foreign Affairs magazine says Modi needs much more than economic growth.

The AIIA published a policy commentary on the Indian and Indonesian elections last week. On the Indonesian elections, The Jakarta Post has reported that the ruling Democratic Party wrapped up its presidential convention on Friday with the admission that its presidential candidates were no match to Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Prabowo Subianto.

Tensions between Vietnam and China have been rising again, although a BBC correspondent makes the point that a recent wave of protests is directed not only against Beijing’s actions in the South China Sea, but also against “bad” Vietnamese employers that are exploiting labour. Apple supplier Foxconn was forced to shut its factory because of the protests. In China itself protests against the high level of pollution are also turning increasingly violent.

Here in Australia the media have been consumed by the Hockey Budget, but it got limited attention elsewhere. The Financial Times had a report that was surprisingly short on analysis, apart from an excellent graph on the deficit that showed why the Coalition had to act. Coverage in Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal was even skimpier, despite three reporters’ names on the by-line.