As South Sudan celebrates its formal birth as Africa's newest
nation on July 9, its constitution, in the process of being
drafted, will have an Indian hand in it.
"South Sudan has watched the political and constitutional
developments in India with great interest and believe that there
is a lot that a country like South Sudan can gain from that
experience," said Sandeep Shastri, pro vice-chancellor at
Bangalore's Jain University who is helping draft the statute of
"South Sudan is looking at the experience of democracies like
India," Shastri told IANS in a telephonic interview from his
office in Bangalore, India's IT hub.
An international consultant with the Forum of Federations, a
Canada-based think-tank, Shastri is the only Indian involved with
public debates being held across South Sudan, a country of over 8
million people, in the run-up to framing the constitution.
Interestingly, India's first election commissioner Sukumar Sen
conducted elections in undivided Sudan nearly 60 years ago.
The Republic of South Sudan, that came into being after residents
of the land-locked territory voted overwhelmingly in a referendum
to secede from the rest of Sudan, will officially celebrate the
founding of the nation July 9 (Saturday) in its capital Juba as
Africa's 54th nation.
Vice-President Hamid Ansari will represent India at the
Shastri said he had an intensive dialogue with political parties
including the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), the
ruling party in South Sudan, on the federal process and underlined
that federalism could be a solution to challenges faced by
multi-ethnic, multi-religious, plural societies.
Shastri, whose interest in Sudan was kindled way back when he
struck friendship with Sudanese while studying in Afghanistan in
the seventies, said the powers-that-be in South Sudan were looking
at the Indian constitution and the Indian experience, with a
special focus on federalism.
"Like the Indian constitution, the interim constitution does not
refer to the country as federal even though (like in India) all
the features of a typical federal system are enshrined in the
constitutional document," he said.
He pointed out to an intense debate in South Sudan on a feature of
their interim constitution which permits the president to dismiss
the state governments, which is very much similar to Article 356
in the Indian constitution.
With capacity building a major thrust of India's Africa policy,
Shastri plans to host a two-year MA in Public Administration to
officials from African countries at Jain University, a deemed
"Bureaucrats, civil society activists and young politicians are
enthusiastic of looking to countries like India as they believe
that experience of societies like India would be very useful to
them," he said.
Some sceptics have voiced doubts that given formidable
developmental challenges, South Sudan, whose territory is roughly
the size of France but lacks in roads and basic infratructure, may
not survive for long as an independent nation.
But such cynicism is not for Shastri. "I would prefer to be an
`incorrigible optimist` on this point and believe that South Sudan
has a great future as a nation," he said.
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