Why India’s election matters

NEW DELHI — As India’s opposition Bharatiya Janata Party storms to victory in general elections, India — and the world — will be watching what comes next.

The election that is sweeping Narendra Modi into the prime minister’s office has important implications beyond India’s borders in terms of foreign policy, foreign investment and, some say, religious extremism.

India, with a population of 1.2 billion, is among the four big developing countries — Brazil, Russia, India and China — and foreign investors have been pouring billions of dollars into Indian stocks and bonds in anticipation of a Modi victory.

Modi has campaigned on a promise of economic revival, and the resounding win Friday means he will be under extreme pressure to deliver — and fast.

India also has a volatile border with Pakistan, and tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors are a matter of international concern.

But perhaps most worrying for Modi’s critics are fears that his rise could worsen sectarian tensions between India’s majority Hindus and its 138 million Muslims. For much of the last decade, Modi has been haunted by allegations that he did nothing to stop communal riots in his home state of Gujarat that killed 1,000 people, most of them Muslim.

The United States refused to issue him a diplomatic visa in 2005. Britain cut ties after three of its citizens were killed in the riots. But over the last two years all that slowly changed as Modi relentlessly campaigned on a platform of economic revival.

Even many who shunned him in the aftermath of the riots began building bridges as the longtime Hindu ideologue marketed Gujarat as a haven for investment and industry.

On Friday, British Prime Minister David Cameron was one of the first leaders to call and congratulate Modi on his victory and to invite him to visit Britain.

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