The recent conflict between Israel and Palestine has again brought to the fore the importance of power in International relations. Though we are living in the 21st century, yet the role of power in society, a nation-state is as important as it was 5000 years ago. Notwithstanding the presence of international institutions like UNO to preach moral values, it is the power that has had a final say in any conflict.
In the case of India, it becomes very important to understand power, given India’s history of colonialism, and its security threat from two neighbors. In India’s history, there have been many instances when India has not been able to wield power properly even when it had it. The cost of the failure was paid by many generations. In this article, we will make a wholesome analysis of India’s power balance vis a vis other nations of the world.
Hard Power and Soft Power
Scholars talk about two types of power namely Hard power and soft power. Hard power is sustained by two main pillars namely Mental and physical. They are as follows
1. Grand narrative of a nation
2. Role of institutions in sustaining that grand narrative
- Armed forces, Scientific achievement
- Economy, Financial power, etc
The Mental component of hard power is more subtle and works at the unconscious level. It motivates citizens, politicians, institutions to work for the glory and pride of that nation. The physical component works at a more outward level and hence is easily visible. Both the components work together and have a symbiotic relationship with each other.
Soft power, on the other hand, is a persuasive power of a nation, by which it persuades other nations or their citizens to follow its policies and accept its supremacy. It is more an abstract form of power, which is not visible to the naked eye. It consists of religion, language, Brands, the Entertainment industry, Universities. Soft power is founded on the bedrock of hard power.
Role of Grand Narrative
For hard power to succeed, it is very much necessary that the power holder is willing to wield that power. Here the grand narrative plays an important role. If the Grand narrative is that of non-violence, evasiveness then that country will not be able to wield power i.e. India. If the grand narrative is that of being just, a force for global good then that country will wield power. By being just, being good does not mean that a country believes in all these values. But a grand narrative is a good propaganda tool to set the record straight.
It will be interesting to take the example of the US. 19 Century US believed in isolationism. It was contended with being isolated in North America. Hence it did not project Power outside North America. The post-WWII US was not willing to live in isolation. It was determined to take on Communism as it considered itself a bulwark against Communism and autocracy[ Read Here].
Every country has its grand narrative to justify its actions and deeds. US has a grand narrative of American exceptionalism that is liberty , egalitarianism, individualism and laissez faire.
This grand narrative was used during the cold war to instill a sense of loyalty and patriotism among citizens. France has a grand narrative of french exceptionalism which is liberty, equality, and fraternity. Chinese have Chinese exceptionalism which is based on Confucianism. Chinese grand narrative believes that it is destined to bring new world order different from the west with China in the center [Read Here ] China has been using this grand narrative to counter western propaganda. These grand narratives help in building up a strong national identity and feeling of pride for the citizens. This in turn motivates citizens to work hard for their nation. These grand narratives also act as a good propaganda tool to attract people from other parts of the world to come to that nation and be part of the collective journey.
Importance of institutions
The will of grand narrative on the ground is implemented by the institutions. Institutions last powerful personalities, Hence they can pursue power even when the person who founded these institutions is long gone. The Anglo Maratha rivalry in India is a good case study to understand the role of institutions in the power matrix. British had a well-developed bureaucratic system working under companies regulated by parliament. The Maratha rule was hereditary driven by the personality of its leaders. It worked perfectly well till the time there were good leaders and they were more than a match for the British. As soon as they were gone, the British crushed them easily [Read here].
The West and China understood the importance of institutions in global power. Hence they have created powerful institutions to secure their interests.US after World war II created the World Bank, UNO, IMF, to project and propagate own financial and military power.
These institutions promote and protect US interests. BRICS Bank, AIIB, Confucius institutions on the other hand protect and promote Chinese power.
Institutions help in sustaining that power and co-opt other nations in that power set up. Countries also have local institutions which formulate power and strategies. CCP is the best example of it. It has lasted its founders and is soon going to complete 100 years of its inception. It has played an important role in the realization of the Chinese Dream. Another example, though not as big as CCP, is that of RSS, which has also played a stellar role in Indian nation-building. Thus institutions are tools to manifest a nation’s will in action.
Institutions act as a barometer to understand a nation’s future. As and when national institutions face decline, a nation also goes down. This happened with the USSR when the deep rot had set in the communist party. In India, it happened during the medieval ages, when great universities started declining and ultimately eclipsed in face of the Islamic onslaught.
Institutions help in formulating the strategy for augmenting the national power within the parameters set by the grand narrative. It includes economic policies, defense modernization, development of science and technology. These are the most visible components of hard power. Chanakya has considered the economy as a sine qua non for a strong nation and has rightly said कोश मूलो दण्डः. Sound economy generates resources that sustain military and other expenditures. Without economic growth, there will be social chaos. In such a situation an outwardly powerful nation may collapse like a house of cards as happened with the USSR [Read Here].
Role of economy, military, and science
After a sound economy, comes the role of institutions like armed forces and law enforcement agencies. Sound Economy acts like a blood vessel that nourishes the muscles of the body republic. This nourishment is necessary for visible muscles like armed forces, law enforcement agencies, and various other institutions. If blood vessels in a body republic are able to carry more blood, then the muscles, that is armed forces, will be stronger. Otherwise, they will become weak over a period of time.
A nation with a weak military but a strong economy is bound to suffer in the longer run. India has had this reality check since time immemorial. India, though a richer nation throughout history, started dropping its investment in the military and technology in the sixth and seventh centuries. Ultimately it faced defeats in war first from Islamic invaders, then from the British, and after independence from China. It was a classic gun versus butter strategy, wherein we neglected weaponry and invested in social goods [Read Here] Ultimately we neither had butter to eat nor guns to defend ourselves. Defense technology changes very fast. Hence it is no secret why the US, China, Russia, India, France, spend billions of dollars every year for arms and ammunition only to maintain a balance of power.
Science plays an important role in maintaining the balance of power. The country which has the latest game-changing technologies completely routes its opponent. There are historical examples of it. Babur for the first time heavily used artillery in India and this completely changed the scene of warfare. Similarly, nuclear weapons used at the end of WWII by the US established its supremacy in the global order. Scientific research and development play an important role in determining the hard power of the nation. Today China and the US are two leading tech nations that are doing research on AI, Quantum Computing, and robotics [Read Here]. These technologies are going to change the future of mankind in the days to come.
Importance of soft power
After hard power, comes the role of soft power, which acts at the mental level to support the hard power to make it palatable [Read Here]. For US, it is Hollywood, Ivy League universities, English language, global tech companies as its soft power carriers. In China, it is Local Buddhist traditions, Mandarin language, Belt and Road initiatives, Chinese tech companies which act as soft power. For Saudi Arabia it is Islam. In crude terminology, the role of soft power in today’s world is to mentally colonize other countries to act according to diktats of Super Powers lest they have to indulge in bloodshed to achieve their objectives. However, we should be very very careful in distinguishing between a nation’s intellectual property and its conversion into soft power. Intellectual property is not necessarily a soft power, though it has the potential to be soft power. Following conditions need to be satisfied for an intellectual asset to be soft power:
- First, there should be enough hard power with the nation to support it. The country should control the narrative of soft power and should not allow others to hijack it.
- The owning country should not be ambiguous about its soft power and should benefit from it
- The country should get tangential financial, legislative results from its soft power which benefits the nation.
India’s place in global power set up
Within a given set of parameters, it will be interesting to see where India stands in a global power setup. This is important because, for the last two decades, India has been clamoring for superpower status. It has been lobbying to get permanent membership of the UNSC. In fact, it has formed an informal grouping with like-minded countries like Germany and Japan to reform UNSC [Read here].
Let’s look at some figures. Indian army is the fourth largest army in the world. It possesses the latest state-of-the-art technology. India is also a nuclear weapon state, a rare feat considering the fact that only nine countries in the world have come to possess it. Similarly, India is going to be a 3 TN$ dollar economy very soon and will be the fifth-largest economy in the world. These figures look impressive and it seems India does have a justifiable claim for UNSC permanent membership. However, these figures hide more than they reveal.
First of all, India is one of the world’s biggest weapon importers [Read Here]. It regularly purchases fighter jets, Missiles, submarines from the US, Israel, Russia, and France. Thus its military strength is not built on a solid foundation. These countries can refuse to provide technology to India depending upon their interests. Besides this, the purchase of foreign weapons also causes a drain of wealth from India. Thus dependence on imported weapons is not a very healthy strategy.
Economy wise India is on sound footing and it is progressing in a secular manner. However, India’s per capita income is 2099 USD. This is way below the per capita income of countries like Iran, Malesia and far lower than that of the US, CHINA, and Japan.
Inability to wield power
However, the most important component of hard power is the ability to wield that power, which is driven by the national grand narrative. You may have the most sophisticated weaponry but it may happen you may not have the courage to use it. Similarly, a country with a big economy may not be able to maintain law and order within its own boundaries and provide justice to its citizens.
In this case, India’s performance has been far from satisfactory. India has been facing two hostile neighbors namely China and Pakistan since independence. India had four wars with Pakistan and in 1971, it cut that country by half. However, India could not take back Kashmir which is still illegally occupied by Pakistan and China.
The Indian parliament has time and again passed resolutions for taking the whole of Kashmir [Read Here] Instead of taking land back , India has been losing land to China [Read Here]. Pakistan has been trying to weaken India by launching terrorist attacks since the 1980s. India has faced more than a hundred terrorist attacks since the 1990s. These included the 1993 Mumbai bomb blast, 26/11, and the recent 2019 Pulwama terrorist attack. Only two times, India used decisive force to teach Pakistan a lesson, once in 2016 during Uri surgical strike and second during the 2019 Balakot airstrike. India has been unwilling to use force to secure its interests. India knows it fully well that Pakistan is its civilizational enemy and it has the policy to bleed India with thousand cuts. Even then India has not made any long-term plan to destroy it. If there is any such plan it hasn’t been made public.
Inability to implement laws
Even within the borders of India, the writ of the government of India is not absolute. It is regularly challenged by various groups like Maoists, Islamists, evangelists day in and day out. Its best example is the Shaheen Bagh protest movement. These people were protesting against humanitarian legislation named CAA, duly passed by the parliament. They blocked the pathways causing inconvenience to the public. Later on, there were riots in which many people lost their lives. However, GOI remained a mute spectator to the arson and violence in the national Capital. Because it did not intend to act, though it had all the resources to act [Read Here].
Similarly, take the case of the recent Big Tech controversy involving Twitter and WhatsApp. As per the guidelines by GOI whats app had to comply with it within the timeframe. But instead of complying with it, it went to the High court opposing their implementation. Twitter went one step ahead. It became an adjudicator and started declaring some tweets as manipulative, in a case in which investigation is going on. It did not respond to notices by the law enforcement agencies. In a way, a mere company defied the will of a sovereign [Read Here].
Some people might say, so what, Twitter also gagged the US president, people can switch to other platforms if they do not like it. The case in the USA is different. Twitter did not dare to bypass a summons by a US law enforcement agency. Secondly, the gagging of Donald Trump was a purely political move to seek favors from opponents. Thirdly, Twitter has been actively cooperating in an investigation from the US congress. Fourthly Twitter is a US-based Company working under US laws. This is different from India, wherein twitter does not consider itself working under Indian laws. Even a tiny country like Singapore has been able to tame Tech giants to assert its sovereignty but India has not been able to do it [Read Here]. In essence India as a nation faces difficulty in asserting its writ even within the borders due to its unwillingness to wield power.
Failure to develop indigenous grand narrative
Now the question arises why India looks so weak in spite of having such a large economy and big-armed forces. Why Indian institutions do not get the respect which they deserve. The secret lies in the power of grand narrative and the institutions that work to enforce that grand narrative.
India has also failed to develop an original grand narrative of its civilization. At the place of the Indian grand narrative, we have copied many western narratives and ideologies. Our leaders, civil servants, diplomats parrot these licensed grand narratives to westerners who are their original creators. Though we feel quite proud of this, the fact is that boasting about a licensed version claiming it as our own has made us a laughing stock across the globe, without us even realizing it.
Originally Indians tried to project secularism, liberalism, and Gandhian nonviolence as part of their grand narrative. We failed to realize that it does not give India any brand value as Europe already has copyright over it. The Gandhian idea of nonviolence was actually drawn from Christianity, not from Hinduism. Moreover, India has been running a licensed corrupted version of this grand narrative software. As and when that software upgrades itself, India has to make necessary changes in its own software. Thus in the 1970s socialism was added to secularism, liberalism under influence of the USSR in the Indian grand narrative. The younger generation had to pay a very heavy price for it. In the new millennia, postmodernism has been added to secularism and liberalism under the influence of the US. In the future, additional features of wokism will be added to ensure the smooth working of Indian Pentium microprocessors.
Subversion of Indian Nation
Due to these licensed versions of grand narrative, Indians have to pay heavy royalty for it in the form of draconian laws, lax regulations over foreign NGOs, weak response towards conversion, and terrorist attacks. Besides this, we have to provide answers for the product’s end-use to their original creators like the USA, Europe, and Russia. This is in the form of overseas reports about minority oppression, the rise of Hindutva fascism, India being unsafe for women blah blah [Read Here]. India in turn becomes defensive about its own conduct and starts appeasing western countries. This appeasement is in the form of the crackdown on nationalist organizations, arrest of Hindu Dharm gurus, purchase of defense equipment from western countries, etc.
Subversion of Indian democracy
This also poses a serious problem for India’s electoral democracy. In India, in its effort to please western countries and domestic constituencies at home, all political parties try to outdo each other in the name of secularism, socialism, gender rights, etc. All this has distorted the meaning of these theories in India. Secularism has created vote banks of religious groups which hamper the functioning of the polity. This has weakened the Indian nation from the inside.
Similarly, feminism has given rise to feminazi. Thus Indian grand narrative of secularism and liberalism, instead of galvanizing Indians for nation-building and attracting foreigners has become a source of strife in India. Why would outsiders get attracted to pirated versions of a product when they can have the original one.
Failure to decolonize Institutions
These copied grand narratives are supported by semi-colonial institutions. Like our grand narrative, our institutions are also colonial and lack any originality. Indian institutions are basically colonial in nature [Read Here].
Unlike other powers like the US, China, Russia, France, where after the revolution, previous institutions were dismantled and new ones with a national value system were created. India continued with the same colonial institutions be it bureaucracy, police, judiciary[ Read Here ]. These institutions look at Indians through a colonial lens. They neither function in native languages nor serve Indian people. They are made to serve their masters, which previously were white Europeans. Now they have been replaced by brown sahibs. These institutions look at Indians as uncivilized masses and consider it their duty to civilize them like westerners. You do not have to look anywhere, you just have to look at deeds. Many foreign policy experts, diplomats had been advising GOI not to act harshly against Pakistan for its continuous terrorist attacks [ Read Here ], lest there be a nuclear Armageddon. Besides this, they also advised GOI to help in strengthening Pakistan’s democracy as it was facing an assault from the military junta.
The fact of the matter is that many of them had been on the payroll of ISI and duly pay obedience to them. They in support of ISI devised various strategies like TRACK 2 diplomacy, TRACK 3 diplomacy. They would tour Pakistan in search of truth and peace. They launched a program like “ AMAN KI ASHA” [Read Here]. Many of these experts were either ignorant of statecraft or on the payroll of ISI.
Even a high school student could see through the game plan of Pakistan. These programs were nothing but a façade to prevent any retaliatory action by India. It also allowed many Indian expert to enjoy the harem of Pakistani generals.
This policy also suited Pakistan as it can bleed India with thousand cuts. Nobody in the policy-making looked at simple facts that, in case of nuclear war it is Pakistan and its corrupt generals which have most to lose [Read Here] Pakistan would be devastated. Pakistani Army would certainly like to avoid this scenario. Thus India bled due to the corruption and greed of its colonial institutions. At last, this nuclear Armageddon bluff was called by INDIA not once but twice. At that time all the foreign policy experts, peaceniks were running for cover and asking GOI to make peace with Pakistan.
Colonized Civil Services
Take another example of the prestigious civil services in India. Entry to this is through an outdated examination pattern that demands the candidate to be well versed with European prejudices in social sciences [Read Here ] [ Read Here].Everything right from the exam preparation to training curricula to posting is designed in such a manner to instill a feeling of being special and having the divine right to rule over uncouth natives. How can we expect such a system to produce people who will independently think about a nation free from western biases? Moreover, in an era of AI, and robotics, India continues to have people at the helm who are not subject matter experts.
Similarly, Police forces in India are more oriented toward serving politicians in power rather than the public in general. No wonder, no politician wants to reform a colonial-era police force.
other institutions fare no better. The Judiciary is more interested in interfering with executive work rather than in dispensing Justice [Read Here ]. Moreover Indian legal system is still a relic of the colonial era. IPC, CRPC, Indian constitution, etc is not rooted in the Indian Dharmic value system. These are basically a colonial version of laws modified here and there to work in a democratic setup.
Other than these state institutions, we have universities that could have provided a strong ideological foundation for nation-building and decolonization. However, our universities have been completely captured by leftists and Marxists [Read Here]. They are not hubs of Research and development, rather they are a playground of petty politics where social experiments are conducted at the behest of foreign masters.
Consider JNU, the Most premier institution in India. Despite claiming to be the most progressive and egalitarian institute in India, it has not produced a single swadeshi social development idea. All it does is import foreign theories and try to fit them into India’s social setup. The situation has worsened with the coming of Postmodernism in universities. Now Universities do not have to pretend for national integrity. In the name of questioning all narratives, nationalism is also questioned [Read Here]. Thus universities become collaborators of colonialism instead of challenging it.
Lack of Indigenous Think Tanks
Institutions outside the formal state structure are weak or sold out to enemy nations.
The Indian education system is yet to be decolonized. The Marxist version of history is still taught in our textbooks. India does not have think tanks like Rockefeller or ford or Templeton foundation, which could ignite discussion. Moreover, Instead of having indigenous institutions, we have branches of foreign offices which propagate alien ideology like PETA INDIA, AMNESTY INDIA, etc.
The only indigenous institution we have is RSS. Though It has been incredible to serve society, it is yet to present a credible intellectual challenge to the hegemony of left-dominated institutions in India. It is high time it develops a credible Indic narrative that can provide a foundation for a powerful INDIA.
India’s lack of soft power
1. Official apathy over native languages
There has been a grand talk of India having a high soft power quotient. We also have a look at this.
Language is an important component of soft power. To look into any country’s soft power quotient, we have to look at whether or not its national language is used in the proceedings of UNO.
There are six languages namely English, Spanish, Arabic, French, Russian, and Mandarine, which have official status in the UNO [Read Here].
Below is the number of speakers of different languages in the world
As we can see from the above, Hindi has the third-largest number of speakers in the world. This is more than double of french, Arabic, or Russian language speakers. But even then it has not found a place in the official workings of world Parliament. This raises a question mark why India has not been able to get Hindi adopted as one of the languages of communication.
The answer lies in India’s neglect of its own languages. In Spite of 70 years of independence, India has not been able to decolonize itself. English as a symbol of imperialism is the official language of the Judiciary, Legislature, and executive. All higher-level education is exclusively in English. Though some crumbs have been thrown into Indian languages in the form of establishing one literary academy here and there and giving some awards to native literary writers, Indian elites still feel at home in English than any other language. Indian elites speak in English at global conferences and try to outdo Americans or British in English speaking[Read Here].
In contrast to this, French, Russian, Arabian, elites are comfortable in their native languages. They carry out all their work in their native language, be it higher education, research, and development, or Justice. Due to this, their native language works as a soft power for them and provides them with a rich dividend.
India neither controls Hindi language studies nor tries to promote them. In many American universities combined Hindi-Urdu courses are taught [Read Here]. This completely changes the nature of the language. So India neither wants to control Hindi studies nor wants to promote it, leave alone getting any dividends from this potential source of soft power.
2. Lack of support for Ayurved, Yoga and Samskrit
Many people consider Ayurved, Yoga, Samskrit, Bollywood as India’s soft power. However, a closer look will reveal they are not so. Though Yoga and Ayurved have been India’s heritage, India has neither been able to control its narrative nor able to stop others from hijacking it. Today Yog is considered the heritage of humanity, not of Hinduism.
Yoga is being delinked from Hinduism [Read Here], and attempts are being made to secularise it. Today there is Christian Yoga, Muslim Yoga, Beer yoga. Not only that foreign Institutes are controlling Yoga by providing certificates to yoga trainers. Ideally, This work should have been done by GOI. But it is not being done. Moreover, India has not benefited from Yoga soft power in any manner. USCIRF continues to consider India as unsafe for minorities. Foreign media continues to promote atrocity literature against India [Read Here].
Ayurved faces an even worse fate. GOI considers it as an unwanted child and promotes allopathy at the cost of Ayurved. A total of 2% of the health budget is allocated for Ayurved [Read Here]. Rest is cornered by Allopathy. Moreover, to seek legitimacy they have been signing MOU with foreign universities[Read Here]. Thus GOI is giving up Adhikar on Ayurveda to others.
Now let’s have a look at Dev Vaani Samskrit. Though government makes tall claims for the promotion of Samskrit, and there has been a craze for Samskrit learning also. Some politicians have jumped on this bandwagon and have started taking oaths in assemblies in Samskrit. So far so good. However, this has not led to any dramatic increase in the number of Samskrit speakers. Neither new literature has been created in Samskrit language. Moreover, attempts are being made to link Samskrit with nazism, caste inequality and it is the language of oppression[Read Here]. instead of countering this negative propaganda, the Government of India is encouraging it by awarding Padma Shri to such writers[Read Here]. The only organization which has been successful in reviving Samskrit is Samskrit Bharti. However, it has got no significant government support in its work.
3. Anti India Bollywood
Now consider Bollywood. The Indian government, intelligentsia, diplomats keep harping on the role of Bollywood in improving India’s image abroad. They provide examples of Indian movie songs being played in foreign concerts. Foreigners doing the Bhangra in some parades. Indians consider it as a sort of cultural victory of India against mighty Hollywood. They think India has finally come of age. Is it really so, let’s do some fact check:
Bollywood is no more a Hindi movie industry, rather it is more oriented towards Urdu and Islamic culture. Urdu is the national language of Pakistan, and one of the demands of the Muslim league in pre-partition India was to make Urdu a national language.
The whole narrative of Bollywood or Urduwood as some prefer to call it is against India’s civilizational ethos. Movies depict Hindus, Hindu religion, and Bharatiyata in a bed light. They glorify Islam, abuse Hindus as Kaafir [ Read Here]. Thus Bollywood has promoted negative stereotypes about India and dented India’s image abroad.
Moreover, Bollywood is not even controlled by the Indian government. Most of the underworld money is channeled in Bollywood. Pakistani-based terror groups supported by ISI call the shots in Bollywood, not the Government of INDIA. Even when movies are ostensibly made to strengthen nationalism, they end up creating atrocity literature against India [Read Here]. This gives further ammunition to the foreign human rights industry to abuse India.
So from the above analysis, it is quite clear that India possesses neither hard power nor soft power. Whatever many intellectuals talk about is nothing but a promotion of feeling good. This is done by leaders, intellectuals to control the common masses and bring a sense of pride in them.
Below is my power matrix and the position of different countries in it.
Global Power Matrix
Now if we look at the matrix, China and the USA are in a neck and neck race for global dominance. Russia has high hard power but does not possess such soft power. France through its diplomacy, Military technology, educational institutions scores well in both hard and soft power. It is no surprise France still calls shots in its previous french colonies in Africa. The UK in spite of being a nuclear power is completely subservient to the US. It does not have an independent foreign and military policy. But being an erstwhile colonial power it still exerts influence over many commonwealth nations. Besides, its educational institutions also enhance its soft power.
The case of Saudi Arabia is interesting as it combines the soft power of Islam with the hard power of its military and economy. Because of Islamic solidarity, it is able to get the loyalty of a large population living outside its borders. Wealth from the oil helps it in maintaining a big military. However, it has no credible global universities which makes it laggard in science and technology.
Israel, a Jewish state, is a regional superpower of the Middle east. Through its superior military technology, it is able to dominate Arab countries. As a start-up nation, it has its own brand value which makes it attractive for other nations. The grand narrative of Jewish civilization propels the power engine of Israel.
The Vatican is unique in the sense that it is home to the Pope and the Global Headquarter of Catholics. Thus it is quite influential in controlling the billion-plus catholic community. The Vatican through the Church maintains a disproportionate influence across the globe. It acts through other big powers like the US and western countries which help in the global concurrence of Christianity. In a way, the country’s soft power acts as hard power. India on the other hand suffers from low hard and soft power which has already been discussed above.
In nutshell, India stands nowhere in the global power arena. What we have is the potential to be a powerful nation, but that will not materialize unless we have credible institutions, a national grand narrative, and a willingness to wield power to secure national interests. In the next article, we will discuss the strategies to improve India’s place in the global power matrix.