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India -- a soft state and national will

Vinod Kumar


A friend  wrote: "Our inability to deal with hard targets strongly has given us the soft

state image and everyone takes us for a ride."

Well, it is not just an image -- it is a matter of fact. It is this understanding that India is a soft state that almost every country takes India for a ride. This soft state status comes not solely from the lack of weapons in Indian armory but also due to India's commitment to Gandhian and Buddhist concept (it will become clear later) of how to deal with adversaries and this has led to lack of "Will". Even if India had all the weapons in the world but lacked the "will" to use them -- these weapons will do no good. Every time we give in even to a minor terrorist demand -- we convey the message that India is a soft state; it has no "will".

I will give below two examples on this issue of "will" : One is how Nixon saw this issue of national "will" and another is an old Arab story.

I will relate the Arab story first and then quote Nixon.

1. The old Arab and the turkey:

Someone told an old Arab if he ate turkey, he will become virile again. So he bought himself a turkey and fed it the best grain and watched it grow big. Every day he said to himself: "One of these days I am going to eat this turkey and be virile again. I am going to be a stud." He started eyeing the good looking young women around. One morning he found his turkey has been stolen. He gathered his sons around him and said in a somber voice; "Sons, we are in grave danger. My turkey has been stolen. Go, find my turkey." The boys laughed at him and said, "So what is the big deal, Old man? What do you need the turkey for anyway?" The old Arab replied, "Never mind, what I need the turkey for. The important thing is that our turkey has been stolen and it must be found. Go, find my turkey." The boys walked away and paid no more attention to the old man or look for his turkey. A few weeks later, old Arab's camel was stolen. This time the sons went to the old man and said, "Father, our camel has been stolen? What shall we do?" "Forget about the camel. Find my turkey" the old Arab told his sons. The sons did not bother about the turkey but looked for the camel for a few days and soon they forgot about the camel too. Another few weeks later the old Arab's horse was stolen. The sons once again went to their father and said, "Father, our horse has been stolen, what shall we do?" "Forget about the horse. Find my turkey." the old man replied. The sons again did not bother about the turkey but looked for the horse in the neighborhood. Again, after a few days the sons forgot about the horse too. Finally a few weeks later old Arab's daughter was raped. The sons were furious, went to father and said, "Father, our sister has been raped. We shall kill the bastard." The old man looked at his sons and said, "No use showing your temper now. It is all because of the turkey. Once they found out that they can get away with the turkey, everything was lost. They knew they can get away with anything they want."

2. Nixon on National Will:

In his book "The Real War", Nixon wrote: "Nations live or die by the way they respond to the particular challenges they face. Those challenges may be internal or external; they may be faced by a nation alone or in concert with other nations; they may come gradually or suddenly. There is no immutable law of nature that says only the unjust will afflicted, or that the just will prevail. While might certainly does not make right, neither does right by itself make might. The time when a nation most craves ease may be the moment when it can least afford to let down its guard. The moment when it most wishes it could address its domestic needs may be the moment when it most urgently has to confront an external threat. The nation that survives is the one that rises to meet that moment: that has the wisdom to recognize the threat and the will to turn it back, and that does so before it is too late."

"The na´ve notion that we can preserve freedom by exuding goodwill is not only silly, but dangerous. The more adherents it wins, the more it tempts the aggressor."

Nixon went on to write: "There are two aspects to national will. There is will as demonstrated by the nation itself, and there is will as perceived by the nation's adversaries. In averting the ultimate challenge, perceived will can be as important as actual will. Although an American President would launch a nuclear strike only with the most extreme reluctance, the Kremlin leaders must always assume that he might; and that if truly vital interests of the nation or the West required the use of nuclear weapons, that he would do so. If they are to be effectively deterred from the ultimate provocation, they must perceive that such a provocation carries with it the ultimate risk.

"National will involves far more than readiness to use military power, whether nuclear or conventional. It includes a readiness to allocate the resources necessary to maintain that power. It includes a clear view of where the dangers lie, and of what kinds of responses are necessary to meet those dangers. It includes also a basic, crystalline faith that the United States is on the right side in the struggle, and that what we represent in the world is worth defending.

"For will to be effective, it must necessarily include the readiness to sacrifice if necessary - to deter those goals that are merely desirable in order to advance those that are essential; to pay the cost of defense; to incur risks; to incur the displeasure of powerful constituencies at home and of raucous voices abroad."


Nixon might have written these with India in view (but we know he didn't) and he sums up the entire issue one sentence:

"The na´ve notion that we can preserve freedom by exuding goodwill is not only silly, but dangerous. The more adherents it wins, the more it tempts the aggressor."


When I referred to Gandhian and Buddhist concept -- I was referring to "naive notion" that Hindus have that if they are nice to others, others will be good to them too. Or if we disarm, others will cause us no harm. If we go on bhook hartal, the others will at least leave us alone if not give us what we demand. We have practiced these kind of "silly notions" for far too long and that is what led Will Durant to write:

"The Mohammedan Conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precarious thing, whose delicate complex of order and liberty,

culture and peace may at any time be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within. The Hindus had allowed their strength to be wasted in internal division and war; they had adopted religions like Buddhism and Jainism, which unnerved them for the tasks of life; they had failed to organize their forces for the protection of their frontiers and their capitals, their wealth and their freedom, from the

hordes of Scythians, Huns, Afghans and Turks hovering about India's boundaries and waiting for national weakness to let them in. For four hundred years (600-1000 A.D.) India invited conquest; and at last it came."

He went on to write:

"This is the secret of the political history of modern India. Weakened by division, it succumbed to invaders; impoverished by invaders, it lost all power of resistance, and took refuge in supernatural consolations; it argued that both mastery and slavery were superficial delusions, and concluded that freedom of the body or the nation was hardly worth defending in so brief a life. The bitter lesson that may be drawn from this tragedy is that eternal vigilance is the price of civilization. A nation must love peace, but keep its powder dry."'

India has not only not learnt the basic lessons in national "will" and it failed to learn the basic facts of life.

Gandhi further pushed India into the abyss that "freedom of the body or the nation was hardly worth defending in so brief a life" except from the British. Unless we can tear ourselves asunder from the legacy of Buddha and Gandhi, any amount of arms or ICBM's are not to going to help. Gandhi and Buddha might have expounded a philosophy that is good for peace of the mind and of the soul but it does not protect the body and the nation.


Vinod Kumar


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