India: Soft, Hard Or Sneaky?

Discussion in 'Politics & Society' started by EagleOne, Aug 12, 2010.

  1. EagleOne

    EagleOne Regular Member

    May 10, 2010
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    There is no uniform ‘one-size-fits-all’ kind of a policy which can be applied to India. Therefore, the question about India being a hard or a soft state is a legitimate question. There are several critical questions on India’s stand on internal as well as external issues which are responsible for the tag of being a soft state, most of which primarily relate to issues of national security. Comparisons were drawn of India’s policies on these issues with the policies of other nations like Israel and China.

    External Security

    At present, India faces threats of infiltration and militancy from its immediate neighbours like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan while security threats from China also exist in a nuclear neighborhood. As a nation in the making, India does not have a well-defined policy of dealing with external aggression, and every insurgency is dealt with differently, as circumstances demand. The Indo-US nuclear deal can be seen as evidence to support the fact that India is not exactly a soft state. Managing a deal with the US which will benefit India in civil nuclear uses in the long run despite not being a signatory to either the CTBT or NPT is proof enough that India is firm where it needs to be. Perhaps, not having a uniform policy is India’s policy.

    Views to the contrary included those that had India been tough in dealing with the Kashmir issue from the beginning; it would not have escalated to such enormous proportions. India’s decision to resume talks with Pakistan despite the overwhelming evidence against that nation in orchestrating the Mumbai 26/11 attacks in 2008 has shown its weak position. The same feeble stance was shown by India following the Kandahar hijacking in 1999 by the terrorist outfit, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, when India negotiated with the terrorists and released three of them, including Maulana Masood Azhar, who later formed the Jaish-e-Mohammad. In contrast, the Israeli policy of no-negotiation with hijackers and terrorists highlights that nation’s no-tolerance policy when it comes to dealing with terrorists.

    However, soft strategies can be beneficial in maintaining peace and prosperity and India is recognized as a peaceful state. India has, for example, been very mindful about water-sharing issues with its neighbours by signing various water treaties. These ‘soft’ policies will not only benefit the state but also the region.

    Internal Security

    Every country has, as a priority, the need to ensure the security and safety of its citizens. India, sometimes, suffers a reverse effect in its approach to resolving internal disputes as they usually seem to escalate after government action, as seen in the case of military offensives against terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, the Northeast, and the violence related to Maoist extremism.

    In such a scenario, negotiation and problem-solving becomes difficult, forcing the government to take ‘hard’ actions. Examples include the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and more recently the creation of the Salwa Judum which can be seen as harsh, but innovative steps taken by India in countering internal conflict. The defence of democracy sometimes forces the state to take recourse to unsavoury and often extra-legal mechanisms.

    The discussion held that in many instances, like militancy in Punjab and Mizoram, Indian strategy of wearing out and addressing the root cause, effectively worked, suggesting that perhaps India is a ‘sneaky hard state.’

    However there were views stating India was a soft state for its weak-kneed approach to reacting to several terrorist acts over the years. It has failed in retaliating effectively against either its terrorist adversaries or their state sponsors. There have been instances when the state has been forced to release terrorists or criminals for hostages. However serious the situation, it cannot be denied that the government seems to buckle under threats, making it look like a soft state.

    The state has also failed to meet security concerns at a micro level. Honour killings, displacement of people in the name of development policies and so on have resulted in an unstable atmosphere in certain parts of the country. Insensitivity to grassroots issues and tough stands on internal aggression deepen antagonism within the state. India continues to struggle to eradicate problems of feudalism and casteism – a struggle for which the Maoists have been able to take advantage of sections of India’s impoverished and tribal population.

    Philosophy vs. Practicality

    The question that arises is – has the Indian government done enough to mitigate the situation resulting in loss of face internally and externally? The answer was in the negative. The state’s response has been ‘inadequate,’ and it should be better prepared to meet terror threats in the future. For all practical purposes, it makes sense to address concerns and problems internally before lamenting over the ‘softness’ of the Indian state at a macro level. The softness comes not from lack of power, but from the lack of decision-making ability.

    There were varying views on the issue of India’s preparedness for a full and final war as an answer to terrorism. While some readily agreed that this may perhaps be the only solution because the ‘avoid-confrontation policy’ of India has, so far, proved to be ineffective, especially in the context of Pakistan-related incidents of terrorism, some were of a different opinion. In case of a war, India has control only over its own actions. What if the other country decides to target civilians too? Would India be ready for such a situation?

    Waging war could not be the solution. Taking ‘tough action’ in every minor matter might be dangerous, both externally and internally. Flexibility can sustain a country much longer in comparison to rigidity. India is different from other nations because it has to take into consideration the reality of a large and heterogeneous mix of cultures and peoples. In addition, the problem with war is not only political or logistical, but also ethical. How far can a state go with the ‘legitimate use of violence’? India’s philosophy of external relations has been one that emphasized the maintenance peace. India maintains that hatred breeds hatred, and therefore, war should be the last recourse.

    Further, ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ are just tags and whether a state is one or the other is a matter of perception. India has a lot of historical, cultural and socioeconomic baggage which may prevent it from taking hard decisions on many issues. As opposed to some supposedly ‘hard’ nations, India’s diverse polity makes it difficult to take a uniform stand on several issues. Meanwhile, if the soft strategy benefits the state in the long-run, there is no harm in recognizing India as a soft state. That said, on economic and other issues like climate change, India has maintained a firm stance since the beginning. However, when it came to taking an unyielding view on dealing with aggression, India appears a soft state.

    It is perhaps necessary to have a balance in Indian actions. What is essential is to resolve the conflict without disturbing the country’s democratic set-up and the world order. India needs to come up with an innovative strategy or model to address her security issues decisively. It is not important to debate whether India is a soft state or not. What matters is a long-term peace where citizens feel secure in their state.

    To this internal reforms are the most important. The whole philosophy and structure of policing and intelligence need to undergo reevaluation and necessary changes must be brought about for a permanent solution for the wide array of internal conflicts. Firm steps to boost the administrative machinery to make it more accountable and transparent as well as stringent and rigorous towards aggression of any kind must be put in place, without which, India will continue to suffer at the hands of terrorism, both internally and externally.

    Medha Chaturvedi and Panchali Saikia are Research Officers at IPCS
  3. sky

    sky Regular Member

    Aug 12, 2009
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    soft as jelly ,with regards pakistan.

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