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India should help promote democracy: Larry Diamond

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Larry Diamond
Larry Diamond

T. Ramakrishnan

‘There are impressive lessons that others can learn from India’

CHENNAI: India should join international efforts to promote democracy, according to Larry Diamond, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, United States.

“It has developed very important innovations in the architecture and practice of federalism, in the means of political accountability, in empowering local government, decentralising powers and resources more generally and creating constitutional ethics with strong constitutional courts,” Mr. Diamond told The Hindu on Wednesday.

Noting that there were “impressive lessons and achievements” that others could learn from India, Mr. Diamond, who was here to deliver a lecture on effective democratic governance, said institutional innovations made by India could be relevant to other developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. For the purpose of joining the international efforts, “it [India] would not have to abandon [the] general international orientation of non-alignment. It would not have to embrace some fictitious alliance with the United States or Europe.”

Many problems

On the country’s track record in the last 60 years, Mr. Diamond, co-director of the International Forum for Democratic Studies of the National Endowment for Democracy and founding Editor of the Journal of Democracy, described India as a “relative success story” in democracy. The country had problems — political corruption, violence, shallow parties largely based on personalities, ethnic and communal violence. But, “if you judge realistically, India has been a substantial, though blemished, success story.”

India’s social complexity and diversity, standards set by the gifted founding leadership for the respect of democratic norms and gradual and long de-colonisation were the reasons for it being able to sustain democracy.

Mr. Diamond, who served in 2004 as a senior adviser on governance to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, said the U.S. should not have invaded that country as it did not have enough resources, troops and knowledge.

Military option

To a query whether he still saw any relevance for the military option to achieve peace in Iraq, he replied in the affirmative but hastened to add that the core of the answer was “political, not military.” There were groups that wanted to kill innocent people and create an “Islamic dictatorship of their imagination.”

So, “you cannot simply stand by and let that happen if you want to see a viable and decent political order in Iraq.”

On the need for the United Nations to get involved in the Iraq issue, Mr. Diamond said U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had signalled his willingness in this regard.

However, there were sections of political forces in Iraq that were wary of the U.N. or any international mediation. But he did not see any way out of the morass without a political settlement among the major political groups. It was in this context that the U.N.’s role would become vital.

Accountability

Later, he delivered a lecture on the importance of horizontal accountability in ensuring effective democratic governance, at a meeting organised by the Chennai chapter of the Observer Research Foundation and the U.S. Consulate General, Chennai.


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