The biggest electoral show on earth is now under way in India. But despite India's reputation as a growing power on the international stage, foreign policy is set to play at most a marginal role in the decisions of most of its estimated 714 million voters.
"I think foreign policy comes up mostly for the English-speaking urban elite and for the television audiences," says Lawrence Prabhakar, associate professor of political science at Madras Christian College. "But for India's hinterland, particularly the rural areas, there's no debate at all on foreign policy. . . . By and large 90 percent of the issues are going to be domestic."
With about 220 million still living below the poverty line, according to a 2007 government estimate, many Indians are understandably more concerned about bread and butter issues. And an Internet penetration rate of just 7.1 percent, according to Internet World Stats, means there is little chance the glossy Web sites offered by the leading parties will steer voters from their local concerns.