The United States is not the only democracy suffering summer palpitations. In India, the coalition Morarji Desi assembled to oust Indira Gandhi two years ago, having found no other common purpose, disintegrated in mid:July. A new coalition -- India iss such a large and disparate country it can only be governed, democratically, by a coalition -- has been put together by Charan Singhh: It's less sectarian (Hindu) and nothern. At 77, Mr. Singh is just six years younger than his predecessor. To become prime minister he accepted crucial support from the still-calculating Mrs. Gandhi. His political base is among peasant proprietors and in ideology he is strongly pro-rural, anti-urban. He is a homebody, having left India only one -- for Sri Lanka. Already his foes are trying to bring him down.
Not many Americans -- to put it mildly -- are close students of Indian party politics. The differences between Mr. Desai and Mr Singh are not likely to dominate the conversation at a whole lot of dinner tables. For those people who do feel some moral obligation to check into the affairs of the world's most populous democracy from time to time, it is perhaps enough to note that, once again, India has been able to carry off a change in national leadership by orderly, peacable means. It's no small feat.A country doing it for the first time could expect to be feted in the Rose Garden. India's reward for doing it consistently is to be put down in some quarters for "instability," as though making political changes by the rules were not the very definition of stable democratic procedure. The details of the change in Delhi -- who knifed whom -- intrigue only connoisseurs. But the fact of the change is worthy of wide respect.
What do we Americans want from India, anyway? For it to be Democratic? It is. For it to be making in-roads into its poverty? Its recent quiet achievement of agricultural self-sufficiency constitutes major progress by any sober standard, though a serious distribution problem remains. For it to take a positive attitude toward global efforts for peace and stability? India adequately fills this bill. The lone could on the horizon lies in the prospect that Indian nationalism, perhaps aggravated by the country's dispute with the United States over nuclear safeguards, may push it toward openly matching China's bomb. The hope -- though it seems pretty slim -- must be that maintenance of a working democracy may put a check on this troubling ambition.