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Updated: February 4, 2012 00:22 IST

Let India unleash its soft power

Prem Shankar Jha
Comment (54)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
The Hindu

The economic and moral decline of the West has created a hegemonic vacuum that presents both a challenge and an opportunity to emerging powers.

Wars kill in more ways than one, and the longer they go on the more do the ways multiply. The first war that proved this dictum was the Thirty Years' War of 1618-48 in Europe. Through rape, murder, pillage, disease and famine, it reduced the civilian population of southern Germany and the Lowlands by 25- 40 per cent. The economic devastation it wrought took a hundred years to repair. The American Civil war may have been the second for it killed 600,000 people (out of a population of 32 million) and so devastated the South that it took a hundred years to recover. And had it not been for the Marshall Plan, a similar fate would almost certainly have befallen Western Europe after the Second World War.

Tragedy in Libya

A similar tragedy is unfolding in and around Libya. Unsurprisingly, it has been hidden behind a veil of media inattention. But nothing stays hidden forever. The shroud of silence was torn momentarily on January 18 by a BBC World News telecast which reported that after three consecutive droughts, Niger was being tipped over into famine by the return of 100,000 of its nationals as refugees from Libya.

If help did not come soon, people would begin to die. The commentator grossly underestimated the impending tragedy, for on September 28, The New York Times reported that 200,000 Nigerois, earning $600 a month or more in Libya, had fled through the harsh Sahara to seek shelter in their home country.

Niger is only one of a ring of perennially drought-prone countries that had come to depend on the remittances from more than a million foreign workers, who had found work in Libya. The other main beneficiaries were Chad, Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia. Very few of these workers left voluntarily: in fact ‘pro-democracy peaceful protesters' “induced” them to go, by accusing hundreds of their fellow countrymen of being African mercenaries, recruited by Muammar Qadhafi to kill civilians, and hanging, burning or shooting them in full view of YouTube's enthusiastic cineastes.

Today there are no jobs to return to, for Libya's economy lies in ruins. The bulk of its urban infrastructure is damaged or destroyed; its oil production is under half of the pre-war level. Since oil accounted for 75 per cent of the state's revenue, the new government is no longer able to fund the massive social security and subsidised food schemes that kept inflation below one per cent in Qadhafi's Libya. Inflation, destitution, starvation and a possible failed state stare many Libyans in the face.

The appeal from Niger is not the first of its kind. Other appeals have been made in the past on behalf of Darfur, South Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea. India has so far believed that its responsibility ends with making modest contributions to the World Food Programme. But as the already fragile Saharan and sub-Saharan world disintegrates, it will be shirking its duty to humanity if it does not do more — a lot more.

Need to do more

India needs to do more not only because with the former hegemonic powers turning into predators a vacuum is developing from Pakistan to the Maghreb. It has a duty to do more also because it can do more. India is sitting on a food mountain, a part of which is rotting even as I write. At the beginning of this month, the Food Corporation of India held 54.8 million tonnes of food grains, This is 30 million tonnes more than its buffer-plus-strategic reserve requires it to hold. With a second year of bumper harvests in the offing, this can only rise further.

A single tonne of wheat will fully meet the needs of three families of five for an entire year. A tonne of rotted wheat donated as cattle feed will keep their cattle alive for the same length of time. Are we so mean-spirited that we cannot spare a hundred thousand tonnes of wheat to save the people of Niger? And why only Niger? Can India not set up a permanent, half-million tonne wheat bank to be drawn upon by any sub-Saharan country in distress?

And why stop at food grains? In drought-struck regions, contaminated water kills much faster than hunger and takes the very young and the very old first. The Indian pharmaceuticals industry is the envy of the world, because it produces and sells medicines at a tenth to a thirtieth of the retail prices abroad. Can Delhi not buttress its food aid with medicines and vitamins? This will give an entirely new meaning to the concept of Soft Power for, unlike the West in its present incarnation, it would be seeking to build influence by protecting and preserving, not destroying; by expanding peoples' futures instead of ending them in darkness.

We have been relatively slow to realise our full potential for the exercise of soft power. This could be because of our too-ready acceptance of a concept that was created by an American to address American foreign policy concerns. In Joseph Nye's original definition, soft power originated in the capacity to attract others to your country's culture, values and institutions. Indian policymakers have taken this to heart and relied mainly upon India's open society, democratic institutions, lack of aggressive intent and willingness to share the burden of U.N. peacekeeping and policing the global commons, to garner respect and support in the international community.

It is only in the last half-decade, as the Westphalian international order crumbled and India's neighbourhood became increasingly unstable, that New Delhi has begun to explore the economic dimensions of ‘soft power' seriously. Afghanistan has been the focus of its initial efforts, and its success is attested to by the threat (irrational though it is) that Pakistan feels from it.

Since then, India has reached out with increasing confidence to Bangladesh, Nepal and Africa. In January 2010, India created a line of credit for Bangladesh of $1 billion, giving it valuable leeway for managing its external account. Later in the year, Pranab Mukherjee announced a doubling of aid to Nepal from Rs.1,600 crore to Rs. 3,200 crore. At Addis Ababa in May last year, India added $5 billion to the $5.4 billion dollar line of credit it extended to African countries in 2008 to “help them reach their development goals.” All in all, India is soon going to be disbursing more than $3 billion in aid every year. This is around the same amount as Brazil.

These are significant initiatives. If they have not been sufficiently appreciated so far it could be because soft power is far more difficult to exercise than ‘hard' military power. Its success depends less on the amounts of assistance that a country is willing to render than on its timing, the attention it is able to capture, and its palpable effectiveness. On all three counts, India still has a good deal to learn.

India was the first to help Bangladesh after the 1997 cyclone that claimed 150,000 lives, but so poor was the projection of its aid that western and U.N. aid captured the world headlines. India's contribution to the post-tsunami rescue in Sri Lanka and Indonesia got a little more notice, but only a little.

In Sierra Leone in 1999, an undermanned Indian contingent of troops did the initial peacekeeping under constraints imposed for reasons of political correctness that no army commander would, or should, have accepted. But all it received were jeers, while the credit for subjugating the rebels went to a British contingent despatched in May 2000 that made its own rules of combat.

Contrast with China

The contrast with China's methods of exercising soft power is instructive. Beijing is frequently criticised, and occasionally resented, for insisting on using its own enterprises, managers and workers, and “transfer(ring) nothing to the country by way of knowhow.” But Chinese aid is more effective than any that the world has seen so far. Projects get completed in record time, at record low costs and, most of the time, to stringent specifications. The locals may earn little directly, but no local politician, crony contractor, or middleman gets a bite of the cherry. Some of the results are mind-boggling: In Kenya, for instance, China has completed 1000 km of motorways and 500 km of regular roads in three years to European standards and transformed the lives and the economy of its people.

Brazil seems to have taken a leaf from China's book. It has the largest official programme of aid to Haiti, amounting to $3.3 billion. And the private charity that brought by far the most aid to Haiti after the earthquake was a Libyan Trust run by Seif-ul-Islam-al-Gaddafi!

The economic and moral decline of the West has created a hegemonic vacuum that presents both a challenge and an opportunity to emerging powers. China and Brazil are already beginning to fill some of it. India cannot afford to be left behind.

More In: Lead | Opinion

@Sundar Krinsnamurthy-Bingo!!All this while going through the article and comments,I was trying to capture the the context which the author wants us to understand when he says:"Morality is in decline"...What moral fibre are we talking about here?Tolerance, honesty ,humanity or our age old claims of cultural superiority,our value system,our family bonds etc?Also,as someone has said above,it s an idealistic and wishful thinking at best.Just imagine the "vote bank politics" if we ever passed the legislation of distributing grains to poor of other countries.We will get to see our opportunistic politicians making a hue and cry out of it;misleading poor,and fueling anger.

from:  Aks Gupta
Posted on: Feb 8, 2012 at 14:27 IST

Awesome work! A very informative, well-expressed and much inspiring
article!
I wish Indian political clowns spend sometime to earn at least a bit of
thoughtfulness & wisdom from these kind of articles.

from:  Jay
Posted on: Feb 7, 2012 at 22:49 IST

have we considered feeding our own poor? charity, does it not begin at home?

from:  rajamani
Posted on: Feb 5, 2012 at 20:00 IST

Nice Article!. Whats not clear to me is, why does West says that India has more hunger and poverty than sub Saharan Africa. I have not see any reply from India. if it is true, first we should take care of our people no ?

from:  Prakash
Posted on: Feb 5, 2012 at 19:05 IST

Moral decline? What, pray tell, is the standard of measurement of
national / regional / cultural morality ? If the west has 'declined'
morality, that means it's safe to assume that we're still sitting
'morally happy'. Well, look around. This is hypocrisy of the first
order. Good and bad are relative terms, and by whatsoever parameters,
both have, and will exist in equal counterbalancing proportions
everywhere. That's the way it works.

from:  Harsh
Posted on: Feb 5, 2012 at 16:31 IST

What "Moral decline" of the West? Guess how many people in the USA need to pay bribes to get basic services they are entitled for? How much money from NREGA programs reach the workers? In some cases, it is as low as Re.1! Only 1% reaching the worker, and we talk about moral higher ground than the West? If there was opportunity for our ministers to steal some money while donating grain to other countries, we would be the biggest donor in the world! In fact, we would have no grain for our own consumption! Jai Hind.

from:  B S Kumar
Posted on: Feb 5, 2012 at 12:03 IST

I don't get the blanket statements Indian media make about the West sometimes and this article is a perfect example. I can understand the economic decline of the West but not the moral decline. More importantly, the author fails to describe what that moral decline is. Besides, this is a bit of a pot calling the kettle black. Neither India nor China have done much for their own poor. If morality is the metric to measure progress, both countries fall far, far behind several countries in the West that help poorer nations.

from:  Sundar Krishnamurthy
Posted on: Feb 5, 2012 at 11:40 IST

Half century of Western-Aping and half decade of West Phalians international order collapse is good . Yet Indian must take to their roots ritually and ceremonially as whole of whole science as future .Unless other wise this is proven material alms giving will not work.Indian real soft powers lies in the back to cultural roots not to crops roots to make banking for grains etc. Have sensationsl and get deluded and not follow outside cheap material prosperity as your standard and roll model . World needs roll model that Spiritual one world not existing one ; as if material world is existing.

from:  N.J.Bond
Posted on: Feb 5, 2012 at 11:29 IST

First, we need to stop this 'holier than thou' attitude.Second, India needs get their own affairs in order before trying to be the good guy for others. Indian poor are starving in the name of food reserves. And as the author says, if the stocks are more than buffer + strategic reserves then why are they letting them rot in the warehouses!... So that they can maintain the inflation levels?!

from:  Vinay
Posted on: Feb 4, 2012 at 21:47 IST

There is no need to bash the west and create a vacumn for India or any other country to provide humanitarian aid to other countries. There is plenty of room for every nation to be compassionate. The US tops all countries as the foremost donor nation in the world in absolute terms and ranks seventh among the 22 developed countries in terms of Gross National Income (GNI). Sweeden and Norway donate more than US in terms of GNI. This does not include private US financial assistance to foreign countries which is almost nil in most developed countries. The US foundations alone paid more money than the combined Official Financial Assistance (ODA} provided by 11 of the 22 developed countries. The US provides financial aid to foreign countries more than any nation whether financial assistance is calculated based on ODA, total dollar value or financial aid per person in the US. More information about soft power and foreign aid is available in the book International Affairs (ISBN 9781618630285).

from:  Davis K. Thanjan
Posted on: Feb 4, 2012 at 20:15 IST

Everything fits good in the article,but what is bothering me the idea
of columnist to feed the neighbour and letting your child starve and malnourished just to show your soft power and economic assets.India must help poor countries with its all surplus asset but don't foreget its poor population who can't afford their food,clothes and shelter.For serving humanity there will neither be an opportunity nor any reward,it is done because we are human.

from:  Ashish Chandel
Posted on: Feb 4, 2012 at 19:47 IST

There is a huge surplus of food grain in our country: This is a sick flaunting of the Indian elite. Millions of people go hungry every day. One look at the statistics will reveal the level of malnourishment and poverty in our country.If true: Why then do we have double digit food inflation year after year. And most of the mounting reserves are only rice and wheat, while prices of pulses and oil seeds are sky rocketing and their production is remaining flat year after year. What government should be doing is introduce structural reforms in agriculture to break this accumulation of cereals and help farmers diversify the crops and help them produce what people really want (solar powered cold storage..anyone). And don’t forget how much subsidized fertilizer has gone into producing the mounting surplus which is nothing but imported petroleum(aka precious forex)left to rot in the FCI godowns.
Before we start ranting about power of any sort: soft, hard, super. Let us put our home in order.

from:  mahesh
Posted on: Feb 4, 2012 at 18:15 IST

Decades ago India was labeld a poor country getting free supply of wheat from the so called developed nations to feed its children in schools.Now to quote from the article" At the beginning of this month, the Food Corporation of India held 54.8 million tonnes of food grains, This is 30 million tonnes more than its buffer-plus-strategic reserve requires it to hold. With a second year of bumper harvests in the offing, this can only rise further."
It is now time that India reciprocate equally.At the same time we need to research on-Despite such swelling surplus why India is reeling under double digit food inflation almost all the years?.On the bleak side we do have the prevalance of abject poverty across the nation.Redefining the poverty line is not the panacia for lifting the majority above the poverty line.We need to have functioning ware houses even at the cost of defence budget to ensure that cost of living is made affordable to commonman.A visionary could do it at no extra cost.

from:  Bose A Panicker
Posted on: Feb 4, 2012 at 14:42 IST

" Economic and moral decline of the west "...Really ?..look at our own backyard..or just read SC judgement 2 days ago on the 2G scam. NOW, Whose morals and economy are in greater decay, or already decayed inside out ?..considering 600 million of us are living in poverty on the edge of life itself. - We preach and pontificate too much to and about others.

from:  Anand
Posted on: Feb 4, 2012 at 07:14 IST

The greatest weapon in the soft power arsenal is the Indian culture and sciences - ayurveda, organic farming, classical dance, music, yoga, family values, Sanskrit, etc. Whosoever has had a real taste of the ancient Indian civilization has stuck with it. The pursuit of the treasure we already had will make the humanity a more spiritual race. However our own culture is under threat from our own people. Religious conversions, pseudo-secularism, consumerism and satellite tv have torn down the fabric of Indian society. Unless we undo this damage, there is no India nor its soft power.

from:  Ashish
Posted on: Feb 4, 2012 at 07:03 IST

Moral decline of the west? America's foreign aid is more than the foreign aid of rest of the countries combined!!. There is so much moral deficit in India that the country should fix before thinking of filling any leadership vacuum. Actually it is only wishful thinking that there is any vacuum. American leadership and generosity will remain unchallenged because the art of giving and helping is the very moral high ground that this country was built on. And the many immigrants that come to this country bring with us the sense of giving back that will continue to foster that culture. Sorry Mr.Jha, there is no vacuum.

from:  Venky Swaminathan
Posted on: Feb 4, 2012 at 04:39 IST

Legislators of the UK claim it provides India £280mn per annum
(until 2015) in helping alleviate poverty, despite India spending
£20bn in defence and £1.5bn on it's space programme. People in the
UK find this irksome. The UK with insurmountable debts and zero
growth still maintains social security which provides free
education,shelter,healthcare and money for food and essentials for
it's populace. India has 8.5% growth, brimming in hoarded food
stocks (rotting). Boasts it's home to some of the wealthiest of
the world while over 300mn Indians are worse off than those people
of sub-Saharan Africa. An intolerable situation that Indians
cannot be proud of.
Surely,India can put right this anomaly without giving up it's
space programme, meet it's defence needs as well as assist Africa
and elsewhere. Until this is achieved we have nothing to be proud
of.
It will also stop the former colonials stating Indians are corrupt
and uncaring and that the poor rely on their aid.
rajagopal raman

from:  rajagopal raman
Posted on: Feb 4, 2012 at 02:39 IST

I agree with the author and some of other users who posted their comments that India should show its soft power in the regions of Africa or middle-east. This was stated by Mr. Shashi Tharoor a long time ago. But, I wonder shouldn't India be caring for her people where more than 300 million are malnourished, or even go to bed without any food. I don't get this. What is the Food corporation of India doing sitting on a 54 million tonne surplus food (30 million more than its buffer) without feeding its own people. And you care about feeding others. Yeah, so cool go show the soft power instead.

from:  Yash
Posted on: Feb 4, 2012 at 01:15 IST

Nicely portrayed India's emerging image as soft power but this will be
proved as boon or bane, can only be decided after it's consequences at
international political hegemony.

from:  Shweta
Posted on: Feb 4, 2012 at 00:07 IST

Excellent reply, Vijay and Hari. We need to clean up first. Have been
hearing this 'moral' superiority for a long time. Lets get our acts
together, put the house in order and then begin to comment on 'decline'.

from:  cheri
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 23:45 IST

Is there no end to the pomposty of this writer? With some 350 million people under the poverty level here he is advocating shipping food to far away countries, while on the side accusing "hegemonic powers of the West".

from:  MUKUNDAGIRI SADAGOPAN
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 21:44 IST

Well written Article, but i think first India should look up inside.As
the many people suffer from hunger, and according to the saxena committee report 53% of Indian still dont get food, so first we should
become stable and then we are able to help other.

from:  subrata saxena
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 21:43 IST

If we have so much grain and such a fantastic pharmaceutical industry, and if we are confident of delivering them effectively why are Indians still hungry or do not get the medicines. As the article correctly points out the value is in the timing and the effectiveness. What I gather from the examples given in the article, the timing has not been a problem but it is the delivery/effectiveness - and China is able to deliver and thus is welcomed and brazil is able to do so. why do not we test out the delivery mechanisms here first

from:  Sidharth Jain
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 21:24 IST

Good article if you can happily forget the reality. West always cared more about its citizens and having a surplus of resources, they were able to exploit their power in other countries. India is way behind in caring for its citizens.

from:  Haya
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 21:23 IST

Excellent article. I feel India really has to increase its soft power, but I beg to differ on one of the solutions given by the author. He said instead of food grains rotting with the FCI, we can give it to Libya. The problem in India is that we do not have the supply-chain to give those food grains to the millions of poor people in India. So, how can we talk about giving those food grains to the poor of Africa ? Those food grains are not rotting by choice but due to inefficiency of our distribution channels.

from:  Shiva Shankar
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 19:02 IST

Mr. Jha's article is a breadth of fresh air explaining the progress India has made in areas it was depending on western countries for quite some time. People are tired of reading only the negatives of the politiciens and the stagnation it causes. Like the author pointed, there are so many positive things happening in the country by duty minded noble people. Good reporters with national spirit, should look for them and bring them to the public at large. >Congratulations to Mr. jha and The Hindu for a thought provoking article.

from:  C.D. Anand
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 17:10 IST

Concisely written article i would say.India, indeed needs to unleash its soft power when it is in a position to do so.Not just to share the burden of UN but also as a gesture of humanity and benevolence.India as a emerging power must stand up to the responsibilites towards the international community.It should take initiatives for the betterment and development of countries needing a helping hand.By doing this it will also set a precedent for the west and consolidate the faith and trust on humanity which has been left in the abyss by the warmongerers of the west.

from:  raju
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 16:58 IST

though the problem here is that the infrastructure cannot yet feed India, Jha makes very valid points. Africa will become the most populous region of the world in 50 years, and the youngest. perhaps what should be done is to grow Indian infrastructure with ties to African infrastructure, a co-growth model. certainly India can develop non-predatory systems of government, or at least try to develop such. Words can enshrine great and noble ideals, it is policy that turns those ideas into lives. and policy can make a small number of noble sounding people very materially rich indeed. but leave them dead inside and make government nothing more than predation. So though we must 'help Africa,' it must be done to ensure Indian/humane values of non-predation grow with other states, learn from them and try and bring stable government that will last in the high-science but uncharted era that begins now.

from:  Rajeev
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 16:57 IST

While we may possess some elements of soft power, we are yet to develop the full panoply of soft power to deploy it effectively.1) For instance, because of the intellectual slavery of our ruling elite to the Anglo-Americans, symbolised by the continued use of English, we fail to interact and communicate with other societies, cultures and peoples in their own languages and media to establish a rapport with them. Instead we still look at others through the Oxbridge and Ivy League prisms. We have to learn other languages such as Putonghua, Uyghur,Zàng, portuguesa, russkiy yazyk, ndebele, Zulu, Swazi, yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, Deutsche, Français etc., by introducing our children and students to them in our schools and colleges. 2) Instead of reacting to the Chinese and imitating and plagiarising them. we have to take the initiative and come up with our own programmes based on our strengths.

from:  mohansingh
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 16:48 IST

I wish some of the policy makers take note of this wonderful article.. But meantime we should take care and think about people dying out of Hunger in IndiA also..

from:  Syed Najeeb Ashraf
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 16:47 IST

Too smug for an Indian national to speak of the "moral decline of the West". What does he mean by "morality" here? Look at the way the Western countries have developed strong national institutions that guarantee and safeguard the rights and dignity of their citizens. Look at the way their societies are responsive to the needs of the underprivileged, the handicapped, the aged, the child etc. Compare that with the myriads of ways India scoffs at the idea of rights and dignity of the individual: Caste discriminations, untouchability, religious discrimination etc. The author also says that "India is sitting on a food mountain". And he is advocating the use of that food for furthering India's power and influence abroad. Is he not aware that about 55% percent of Indian children are undernourished? Is it moral to disregard these starving children and use their food to further our power abroad?

from:  Rafa
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 15:21 IST

A country with close to half of it's population malnourished, thinking
of making a food bank for other countries sounds preposterous. We
really need to get our house in order at first. Also, as someone who travels abroad quite regularly, I know for a fact that the west is still quite economically strong. Even though it has stopped growing, it is decades ahead of India at least.
It's also ridiculous how we can claim moral superiority when we allow rampant corruption, inequality and cannot protect fundamental rights of citizens.

from:  Hari
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 14:24 IST

Another Article that actually target to grab the symptoms of developed nations without even knowing the fundamental methods to develope a nation. Build a gracious society first and reflect the graciousness , otherwise it can just be a hypocrisy added!

from:  Vijay
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 13:57 IST

Excellent article..it reminds me of a stetement from the movie SPIDERMAN..It says that "bigger power bring bigger responsibility as well..." We are growing and now it's our responsibility to help those in need..

from:  Madhav
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 13:36 IST

The author is delusional, India has never been much of a power and will never be. Yes we have natural resources and land, so we grow crops and mine away but each and every pore of this country is corrupt and polluted. Selfishness prevails in every aspect of our lives. Just walk the streets of any city and look at the disparity between the haves and the have nots. We have a huge almost insurmantabe challenge of fixing ourselves first, leave alone meddle in others affairs.

from:  naveen
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 13:11 IST

India,the largest democracy and a firm supporter of the "ideology of Democracy".Turning the pages of History,we find that India has always rallied around the countries where a silver lining of Democracy has been seen.for e.g. Myanmar.Today,Africa the largest pool of resources is on a transformation from Monarchy to Democracy,thereby inviting India to ponder upon the larger prospects this huge continent can provide.China is always ready to exploit the situation as vivid from the trade of US$55 billion in 2006,as compared to the small amount of Indo-African trade.As the fight is between India and China ,the diplomats should arrive at a better policy of attracting the Africans.One of the ways to have this is what the author has depicted.There must be more and much more techniques to catch a firm hold of INdo-African ties such as Education,Research and SocialEnhancement.So,bureaucrats should buckle up and take a firm step in this direction.

from:  rahulan
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 12:45 IST

India has vast resources and a very hard working manpower to make best use of these resources. Given that the political, governmental, social and all other system works in sync with each other, we can always extend ourself to explore opportunities in other countries. Opportunities includes not only aids, but market situation as well. A country cannot survive on aids only. for any long-term growth, it needs business, and while we need to be more active in laying the bricks for development in these countries, we can also leverage the opportunities of business which will have progress of both countries in mind. Besides, with active participation in development of business with use of both Indian and the host countries people, communication barrier could be broken and more jobs could be created, in addition to the experience it will give to our talented and still hungry workforce. It will also be an advantage in having a knowhow of places outside India.

from:  Sneha
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 12:41 IST

It is quite unlikely that a country where people relieve themselves on the streets hope to have soft power or any sort of power. That urinating on the wall spectacle is enough for the sheen to be lost for decades to come because its a gross pointer to the administrative decay and >mismanagement in the country.

from:  James
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 12:08 IST

Well written article, showcasing what India could do to the world. But, the irony here is, India could do a lot more to itself. As per, Justice Markanday Katju's remarks, there is more than 80% of the population in poverty. Food security bill in a way will address that. But, with the statistical data provided in this article, it is very much possible for India to ensure food to all its citizens. Its already high time India addressed this issue. First I would like to see my people not starving, then we can boast of our soft powers helping other poor/fragile economies.

from:  Srivatsan
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 11:51 IST

A well-written article. The writer has showed a way in which India can
make its' presence felt at global level. We can learn from China in
this regard. But we should also take care of the fact that many people
die in hunger in India also. I know this is more of policy
implementation issue.But even then, the foreign aid should not put our
people in jeopardy. I think that if we remove this malady i.e.
corruption, we can cater to both the needs parallely.

from:  Amit Kumar
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 11:34 IST

It is good to know that India is sitting on a food mountain. But would
it not make sense to divert that food to the millions in India who are
on the brink of starvation rather than letting rot. It is more important
to fix our own problems before helping others.

from:  Tinniam V Ganesh
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 10:41 IST

India should lend its soft hands towards the suffering nation.If our needs are fulfilled, then there is no reason to log resources,which cannot be used in future.We should start first to help others irrespective of the chances of getting favours back.Future is not predicitable at this moment, clashes or natural calamities cannot be prevented to the full extent.The worst situation may have a turn on us too.If we did enough assistance to others , they would turn back on us without request.

from:  Gukan Kumarasamy
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 09:56 IST

how do u expect india to help sub-saharan countries when 42% of children in india are malnourished???

from:  sumanth
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 09:49 IST

Excellent article and India needs to help many of the African countries and perhaps India can adopt the Chinese model of building the infrastructure in African countries. However, India has been unable to ramp up its own infrastructure and the country is riddled with corruption, maladministration and a new scandal everyday. In view of this scenario how will India help other countries?

from:  Srinivasan
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 09:43 IST

What a truly refreshing article by Mr.Shankar Jha and our sincere
appreciation of the hindu management to publish this.The timing is
perfect and well intended.These days .when we are busy talking,reading
and hearing about.Sachin's 100 th hundred,court orders on 2G,Film
festivals,controversies in literary festivals and Kolaiveri happenings
every day and in every part of India,the voice of this article should
be loud and through the ears should pierce every India heart.Not only that the thought of serving the people outside India would sure to
make our hearts clean and honest.It is not soft power only.It is a
humble,soft heart to consider humanity as a whole.It is apt to
remind ourselves the classic thinking of Kaniyan Poonkunranar words
"Yadhum Voorey,Yavarum Keleeir"(Purananuru),meaning every country is ours and every one is our relative.This article by Jha is very near to that idea.

from:  Seshachalam Gopalakrishnan
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 08:33 IST

First let the Indian food mountain be fed to hungry Indians. The government which is not willing to feed its own people cannot be any power.. soft or hard.

from:  H. Prasad
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 08:07 IST

Nice article!. One thing to be taken notice is that, China is doing nothing for free.One needs to know that they are taking home of lot of natural resources in exchange for the infrastructural developments being brought into Africa. It has no point to say that we need to offer food grains to other countries for free, we need to get something in return.Our own countrymen are devoid of food, the cost of food prices can come down, if used correctly. Take a look at the link below, you will know what china is getting in return for its infrastructural work in Africa.

from:  Srihari vasista
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 07:33 IST

"Moral decline of the West".......When are we going to overcome this Holier than thou attitude.

from:  vicky
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 07:27 IST

Lets be human first. Good deeds brings in good will. We don't need to go after "power". I am sure many many millions if not billion people would support the author.Lets do a timely help.

from:  Suren
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 06:58 IST

Indeed, India should reach out to the needy populaces to fill up this vacuum. Ironically, despite all the resources at their disposal, successive Indian dispensations have failed to raise the living standards of millions of its own people living under similar conditions. India's softpower lies in the will and perseverence of its people, who have time and again proved their worth in and outside of India. Despite existence of a structured democratic system in the country, many of our leaders continue to wield hegemonic powers manifesting into predator ways. We need to create a similar leadership vacuum in India which can be filled with the best qualified, motivated, and talented Indians, who will not only resolve our own problems but also of those deprived regions, which the author has referred to.

from:  Surinder
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 05:19 IST

I fully agree with the author that it is well time for India to play a
much bigger role globally, related to humanitarian assistance, peace
building and other technical assistance to countries in need. We are
as a people generous and highly hospitable and there is a
responsibility on our government to represent this character of the
Indian people to the world. Steps must be taken to encourage Indian
expertise to collaborate with and assist countries in need. This could
include technical assistance projects relating to governance,
education, health, law enforcement support and other areas. In fact
key Indian institutions should have international cooperation
divisions with a budget to undertake assistance programmes with
countries in need. Our embassies abroad need to be more proactive to
make this link. Bollywood already gives us a huge recognition
worldwide. It is time we followed it up with something more concrete.

from:  Ajit Joy
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 03:56 IST

The author is very articulate in explaining how India can help nations in need by exercising its soft power. May be, he could have explained, why should the West be implored for India not doing what it should have done as a soft power? He could have also elaborated on the vaccum that he says has been created by decline of the West - Should the vaccum really matter? Cant India help with or without the vaccum? Also, on China, the author could have explained how kenya benefitted from China, when know how is not transferred and its local population is not being employed.

from:  Anand
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 03:39 IST

A bold thought provoking essay, a powerful idea for all of us in India
who need an alternative to the brutal rapacious western powers who claim
to spread democracy and civilization but only enslave developing
societies.

from:  Rajasekar Thunghabadra
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 03:02 IST

Excellent article and great insight. I completely agree that the rotting food in Indian barns should be distributed freely across India and drought stricken African nations - at least for humanity sake.

from:  Anand
Posted on: Feb 3, 2012 at 00:56 IST
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