Big Ideas for India Contest: Question 4: Should India be a soft state or an assertive one?

The last question on the governance model (before we move on to specific sectors) relates to how India should be perceived globally and in the neighbourhood. Sandwiched between Pakistan and China, India has few options to maneuver.

Is there such a thing as a soft state? Is our ‘softness’ with its genesis in the non-aligned movement now becoming a handicap in dealing with the rise of China? How should we deal with the rise of Islamic threats, especially in Pakistan?

The global situation is changing rapidly. Who could have anticipated the rapidly unfolding developments in the Middle East? What should India’s response be – even as it has ambitions of a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, but is still unwilling to take a clear stance on Libya? Is there an argument to be made for India to flex its muscles much more on the global stage and be seen as a regional counterweight to China?

Contest Overview.

6 thoughts on “Big Ideas for India Contest: Question 4: Should India be a soft state or an assertive one?

  1. Yes, we need to shed our historical baggage from the NAM times, and be more purposeful as well as forceful in international fora.

    As the world’s biggest population and one of its fastest growing markets, we are not only in a position of immense importance, but our ability to influence results is growing exponentially. The point is, whether they like us or not, the world is watching and the world will HAVE to deal with us – we are too big and growing too fast to be ignored.

    Our hope of being ‘de-hyphenated’ from Pakistan has ocurred more due to events in that country than in ours. Our hope of being hyphenated with China – which we shouldn’t be (they are a couple of decades ahead of us) – is causing us to view strategic partners, alliances and the future through a somewhat narrow lens of maintaining a balance of power in the Indian Ocean.

    We need to clearly articulate our specific foreign policy objectives, engage in alliances towards the achievement and maintenance of these goals and be open about our choices and preferences. To be the ‘anti-China’ or the ‘US henchman in the Indian Ocean’ or the ‘NAM-Panchsheel loving leave-me-alone-I’ll-leave-you-alone’ is asking for trouble. The world is looking to us, we cannot be the ostrich that buries its head in the sand. Opportunities for self-promotion need to be grasped now, another decade lost in only inward focus or dealing with the outside world only by reflex will be a colossal waste of time.

  2. I dont think we are a soft state anyways. Where we have not taken a stance, we have done so for a reason.

    The terrorism threat is one example. Although the initial reaction of many people was that we are not being assertive, fact of the matter is that neither country can afford a full fledged war in current scenario.

    “Opportunities for self-promotion need to be grasped now, another decade lost in only inward focus or dealing with the outside world only by reflex will be a colossal waste of time.” There are tonnes of assumptions in that statement. Why would you like to do self-promotion in an increasingly protective environment? It could only worsen things in the current scenario.

    The right approach is to fix all domestic issues (even in this open world) and be prepared for the next wave of trade boom (which will happen once the US gets its story right) – Inward Focus is KEY. Get things sorted out internally – your education system, infrastructure, politics – everything – and be well placed when it is ‘love all’ – which will be soon.

  3. Assertive is the only answer.

    With one of the best demographic advantage over any other country, we need to get the youth more assertive rather than ignorant to international issues.

    India has now become a country of “This too shall pass !” We are incapable of taking a stand on issues because we are worried of what the rest of the world would think. This is an exact replica of our day to day life, where we do or do not do something, because we are worried about what “society” would think.

    The stand needs to change. We are a self-sufficient country and capable of taking a few hits.
    There is a difference between diplomacy and always giving in. Unfortunately our Prime Minister is exactly that — Non Assertive !!

  4. The goal would be to achieve a more assertive role in international affairs, but we would have to stay non-aligned till we are in a position to back our “assertions”. Would not do much good if we assert ourselves in the libyan affair but cannot do a thing one way or another. We can stay non-aligned till we get enough economic momentum to fund our “opinions” and make the most out of them. Mugabe’s atrocities, for example, would have been a good pretext for sending in a peacekeeping force and building relations with the next man in for better trade in Africa if we could fund it, that is. International operations would also do our large military a lot of good, I’m sure.

  5. A little bit of history.

    America faced this problem while it was growing big, in fact one of its Presidents got elected for saying that America will stay out of world politics. They even tried to stay out of World War II.

    As we can see, circumstances forced them to a bigger role, and to say the least, they have acquitted themselves pretty well.

    India too can, and will, when the world stage calls for it. Till then let us stay content playing second fiddle and minding our own business…
    We got a million problems to solve.

    I am sure that the problem of Muslim militancy is temporary and will die down sooner than one expects. The breakdown of African and Middle East hegemonies is a pointer to such a course.

    One interesting question. Will a war at this stage help India? The answer, if intriguing, may be yes…

  6. 1) First and foremost India needs to have far better, open, strong, clear international affairs policy than it currently has.

    2) India needs to behave like it’s already a superpower and the most important country in world and not behave like puppet for rich countries to use as and when required.

    3) For every international affair, whether related to India or not, India must always have very clear opinion on it which perfectly aligns with its policy and then have unshakable belief in it.

    4) Of course none of this is going to come for free so India should certainly invest heavily and fix all the issues surrounding its internal development to make itself developed country asap.

    5) As democratic country , India must support democratic governance in all parts of country and heavily criticize its friends who play double standards in such matters.

    6) Indian should continue to invest in Defense sector and also built very advanced home grown technology weapons for its protection and take very strong position when it comes to its safety/or any sort of attack from neighboring country or even the countries which indirectly suport neighboring countries. In today’s complex interdependent world, it’s enough to cause damage than win the war which India must be able to do to ANY country in the world.

    7)Though It will take sometime for India to get to this position but India being one of the most and biggest market in world , no country can actually dare to be not on good terms with India if it takes strong position and India should use this fact of the market to its maximum advantage.