NEW DELHI, Nov 6: Domestic spats between quarrelling Indian states are often more intractable than maintaining good relations with neighbouring countries, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Tuesday.

“It is perhaps no exaggeration to say that we have found it easier to manage bilateral agreements with neighbours on river water sharing than domestic disputes between states.

Similar issues arise in the management of our mineral and hydrocarbon resources,” Dr Singh said at a conference on federalism.

He pointed out that sustained economic development increases the inter-dependence among the units of a federation. Balanced and equitable management of this growing inter-dependence was yet another major challenge facing the federal polity, he added.

Dr Singh, who became finance minister in a minority government in 1991 before he surprised everyone by getting the top job as prime minister, again because of a ragtag alliance, appeared to rue the factor that got him there.

The United News of India said that Dr Singh, who is facing opposition to the Indo-US nuclear deal from the Left Parties and allies, wondered whether a multi-party coalition government like the one he was heading was capable of providing the unity of purpose required to be demonstrated by the nation-states.

“Sometimes the resolution of problems acquires an excessively political hue, and narrow political considerations, based on regional and sectional loyalties and ideologies, can distort the national vision and sense of collective purpose,” Dr Singh said while inaugurating the Fourth International Conference on Federalism here on Monday.

Pointing out that the political dimension of the centre-state relations posed a major challenge to a federal polity like India, Dr Singh urged the conference to reflect on whether single party states have advantages in managing centre-state relations better as opposed to a multi-party system.

Saying that the Indian experience of multi-party model with national parties dominating the political scene in managing the centre state relations also gives rise to serious tensions, the prime minister cited the example of river water disputes involving various states.

His comments are not expected to go down well with the ruling coalition partners most of them being in his cabinet by virtue of being major regional leaders.