An Indian model for Egypt

While many argue Egypt should emulate Turkey, India's style of democracy is a better blueprint, one Arabic language editorist writes. Other topics today: Arabs' role in Syria and elections in Egypt.

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While many argue Egypt should emulate Turkey, India's style of democracy is a better blueprint

Many Egyptian elites, especially Islamists, are enthusiastic about the Turkish model despite the huge differences between Egypt and Turkey. The "Indian model", however, is today's most successful example for Egypt to take inspiration from, Mustafa Al Faqi argued yesterday in an opinion article in the UAE-based newspaper Al Khaleej.

Historically speaking, Egypt had not been less developed than India. In fact back in the 1960s following the establishment of the non-aligned movement, the bilateral ties between the two nations under Gamal Abdel Nasser and Jawaharlal Nehru saw a turning point when they jointly built an air plane. Egyptians would create engines while Indians the bodies, the writer noted, adding, "Now look where we are and where they are".

The Turkish model is very different than the Egyptian reality, where religion and politics have always been intertwined. India, on the other hand, shares with Egypt a great deal: issues like poverty, illiteracy, sectarianism and a weighty, exotic cultural heritage, the writer noted.

"The Indian dream", the writer explained, is best for Egypt to take a cue from for the following major factors: India is a nuclear-weapons state; it is fast-developing, industrial, has a space programme and is self sufficient in food grains, even with a population of more than 1.2 billion.

The giant Asian country did not reinvent the wheel. Without shutting eyes to ultra-consumerism and without failing to protect local industries, India has earnestly pursued clear, midway policies. And in parallel, it has preserved the spirit and character of Hindustan in its economic policies, even in its arts and culture.

India is the world's largest democracy. During elections, hundreds of millions head to the polls to cast their votes for whom they deem worthy, despite prevalent poverty and illiteracy. It was the Indian people who did not vote Indira Gandhi into office in her constituency before they voted her to power again when she realised why the electorate rejected her and corrected her mistakes.

Indian democracy has brought to power three presidents from the Muslim minority, and it relied on the Seikh sect to boost a struggling economy.

India is a country of paradoxes. There is excessive wealth and object poverty; coexistence and sectarian strife; and a sense of discomfort among the Hindu majority towards the historic transformation that came with the Muslim Moguls.

Maharajas or Dalit castes fortunately do not exist in Egypt. Still, there is a latent class struggle and an intense generational conflict that would now and then sound alarm bells. But India as a state treats all faiths and sects equally.

"The Indian model" is more relevant to Egypt, the writer suggested.

Is Geneva the end of Arabs' role in Syria?

The agreement of the US and Russia to hold the "Geneva 2" conference next month to solve the Syrian crisis marked the end of local and regional endeavours in favour of the world's major powers, noted Fahmi Huwaidi in the Qatari newspaper Al Sharq.

The deal implicitly favoured a political settlement over a military one that had been on the table for two years. It also meant that the Turkish role had dwindled and the Egyptian initiative had been placed on the back burner, he said.

The agreement came against a backdrop marked by three developments. First, the Syrian regime has been able to retake some areas following military supplies from Russia and Iran. Second, Hizbollah has openly stepped in to defend the Al Assad regime. And third, Israel raided critical military facilities in Damascus, sending a message to all that it would not allow Syria's weapons to be supplied to Hizbollah.

The Geneva meeting is bringing the Syrian crisis to a whole different level where the major nations will call the shots and Arabs will officially lose significant influence.

Until then, Arab nations can still do something about it if they manage to change the balance of power on the ground. Egypt, which so far has been timid towards the Syrian conflict, can change the game if it uses its clout to back the Free Syrian Army against the regime troops.

Army vote could spell disaster for Egypt

Egypt's constitutional court has ruled that members of the armed forces and police have a right to vote in the nation's elections, in line with the new constitution.

"Are we ready at this point for such a step? Will it benefit a democratic pluralistic Egypt right now," Emad Eddine Hussein commented in the Cairo-based paper Al Shorouk.

Yes, the police and army vote is not unprecedented. It exists in several nations. But democracy and stability there have come a long way, and most importantly their armies and police are not involved in politics, he said.

Allowing members of the army and police to vote in the coming elections, or even in 10 years to come, will spell disaster for Egypt. The good intentions behind achieving equality between citizens could pave the road to hell, the writer argued.

Candidates will have to talk the security personnel into voting for them. This will result in soldiers being divided between parties. The police and the army will probably have their respective favoured candidates. Thus political debate will be part of the armed forces.

But unlike politicians who have only dialogue to use against their rivals, soldiers and police have weapons that some might think of using to impose their beliefs, the writer said.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk