Change in India: New prime minister starts on a positive note
Newly elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched his new administration with a generous, impressive list of invitees to his inauguration.
Attendees at the May 26 ceremony in New Delhi included the presidents, prime ministers or top officials of sometimes prickly Indian neighbors Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Mauritius, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The most significant attendee was Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, with whom Modi held an hourlong meeting. The two exchanged shawls for their mothers.
India and Pakistan have fought wars three times since independence in 1947. Kashmir remains disputed between them. Both nations possess nuclear weapons. Kashmir and mutually sponsored terrorism against the other remain serious bones of contention between them and dialogue is on-again, off-again.
Modi, whose Bharatiya Janata Party won a large victory, 282 out of 543 seats, in India's recent elections, a clear majority requiring no coalition to govern, is now in a strong position to negotiate better relations with Pakistan. He and his party have reputations as Hindu nationalists - even anti-Muslim to a degree - and thus are shielded from criticism if they now take reasonable positions on the subject of relations with Pakistan.
Modi's election and his campaign positions initially raised concerns on the part of the United States and other countries that desire peace in the South Asian subcontinent.
The new prime minister has also pledged to reset India's economy back toward growing prosperity in the face of some slippage from former higher growth rates. Some of the measures that he will be forced to employ to bring that about, particularly including a vigorous attack on widespread corruption in the country, will provoke criticism.
At that point he might be tempted to defend his overall position by distracting his Hindu-majority supporters with foreign affairs distractions, including a more heated relationship with Pakistan.
Modi's invitation to Sharif, and what appears to have been a positive meeting at his inauguration, indicate a more positive approach to the relationship, which could have good results for both countries as well as for regional peace.
Despite Eric Cantor's loss, keep going on immigration reform
Well, that's it for immigration reform this year. Or maybe not.
The conventional wisdom that erupted from the volcanic primary defeat of Virginia Republican Rep. Eric Cantor - an election that drew a laughably anemic turnout and a badly run campaign by the incumbent - was that his relatively moderate, or waffling, stance on immigration legislation did him in.
So said Cantor's triumphant opponent, David Brat, a free-market warrior: "It's the most symbolic issue that captures the difference between myself and Eric Cantor." Yet other Republicans who have backed some versions of immigration reform, including South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, have not gone down in tea party flames.
And when the smoke clears, it's quite possible that mainstream Republicans, big business, agriculture interests and others who are trying to bring the party around on immigration reform this year will prevail.
Absolutist tea partiers like Brat see immigration reform in simplistic terms: They believe they're protecting American workers and jobs from those who would gladly accept the lowest of low wages from big business to pick vegetables, can seafood and clean skyscraper offices. But they're wrong on that and they're incapable of recognizing humanitarian considerations.
Majority Republicans appear to be sensitive to the notion that their inability to positively address a significant issue affecting Hispanics and other ethnic Americans borders on political suicide. That pragmatism is delicately driving the possibility of a bipartisan solution to the long-vexing dilemma. We're hoping the gut reactions to Cantor's defeat are wrong and the House will continue on the path of immigration reform sooner rather than later.