LETTERS: India can be proud of its democracy

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UNDER what conceivable criterion can Indian democracy be adjudged less "genuine" than that in such recent precarious additions to the democratic fold as Taiwan, South Korea, Russia and Nicaragua ("Poll fever gallops around the globe", 3 March)?

Since independence India has witnessed 10 general elections with no less than four of the last five resulting in a change of government. Maintaining a competitive political system for nearly half a century against daunting odds - an electorate thrice the size of that in the United States (the majority of whom live in poverty and only half of whom are literate) - is an achievement that deserves better than a dismissive mention.

In stark contrast to Russia, where just two and a half years ago the elected president ordered his armed forces to storm the seat of parliament, in India institutions of state such as the Supreme Court have repeatedly proved their strength and independence of the executive.

And so far as the significance of the forthcoming Indian election is concerned, I would suggest that an unpredictable poll in the world's second most populous country is probably more important than those classed with it in the Czech Republic, Nicaragua and Zimbabwe.

James Chiriyankandath

London Guildhall University

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