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Coalition politics will dominate Indian governance: US spy chief

February 03, 2014 12:57 IST

Since the 1984 national elections, no party has won a clear majority in the lower house of Parliament, a US intelligence report has observed. Vicky Nanjappa reports.

Any future government that is installed in India after the 2014 elections may not have legislation or policy changes that are consistent with the interests of the United States of America, a US intelligence report has said.

A document on the Worldwide Threat Assessment of the United States Intelligence Community prepared by James Clapper, director, National Intelligence in the United States makes the above observation.

The document which has been prepared after assessing all forms of intelligence assessment which include, security, suggests that in this election year in particular, coalition politics and institutional challenges will remain the primary drivers of India’s foreign policy decision making.

Any future government installed after the 2014 election will probably have a positive view of the US, but future legislation or policy changes that are consistent with the US interests is not assured.

Coalition politics will almost certainly dominate Indian governance. Since the 1984 national elections, no party has won a clear majority in the lower house of Parliament.

“We judge that this trend will continue with the 2014 elections, and the proliferation of political parties will further complicate political consensus building,” the report says.

In 2014, India will probably attain a 5 per cent average annual growth rate, significantly less than the 8 per cent growth that it achieved from 2005 to 2012 and that is needed to achieve its policy goals, the report says.

India shares US objectives for a stable and democratic Pakistan that can encourage trade and economic integration between South and Central Asia.

“We judge that India and Pakistan will seek modest progress in minimally controversial areas, such as trade, while probably deferring serious discussion on territorial disagreements and terrorism,” it says.

India will continue to cooperate with the US on the future of Afghanistan following the drawdown of international forces. India also shares concerns about a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan, seeing it as a long-term security threat and source of regional instability.

India and China have attempted to reduce long-standing border tensions through confidence-building measures, such as holding the first bilateral military exercise in five years in November 2013 and signing a Border Defense Cooperation Agreement during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to China in October 2013. However, mutual suspicions will likely persist.

The Indian intelligence point of view on the matter is somewhat similar. While the Indian intelligence also suggests that there would be a coalition government; it however sees India having a stronger foreign policy which may not subscribe entirely with the views of the US.

The handling of internal security, economy and foreign policy will be the major challenges before the 2014 government and there could be sweeping changes effected by the future government, the Indian intelligence assessment states.


The US intelligence document states that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s primary focus will be on improving the economy, including the energy sector, and countering security threats.

Sharif probably won the May 2013 election primarily because the previous government failed to improve either the economy or the generation of electricity. Islamabad secured an IMF program in September 2013. Pakistan satisfied International Monetary Fund conditions for fiscal and energy reforms under its three-year, $6.7 billion extended fund facility, paving the way for a second disbursement of $550 million in December.

However, continued use of scarce foreign exchange reserves by the State Bank of Pakistan to prop up the Pakistani rupee might make future disbursements difficult.

Sharif seeks to acquire a more central policymaking role for civilians in areas that the army has traditionally dominated.

His push for an increased role in foreign policy and national security will probably test his relationship with the new Chief of Army Staff, particularly if the army believes that the civilian government’s position impinges on Army interests.

However, Sharif has publically stated that the army and the civilian government are “on the same page.”

Islamabad wants good relations with the US, but cooperation with Washington will continue to be vulnerable to strains, particularly due to Pakistani sensitivities toward perceived violations of sovereignty.

Sharif entered office seeking to establish good relations with the US, especially in areas that support his primary domestic focus of improving the economy. Sharif and his advisers were pleased with his late October 2013 visit to Washington.

Pakistan was eager to restart a “strategic dialogue” and its officials and press have touted results of the initial meetings of several of the five working groups that comprise the dialogue.

Sharif also seeks rapprochement with New Delhi in part in anticipation of increased trade, which would be beneficial to Pakistan’s economic growth. Sharif will probably move cautiously to improve relations, however, and India also will probably not take any bold steps, particularly not before the Indian elections in spring 2014.

Vicky Nanjappa