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Essay, Paragraph or Speech on “Is India A Soft State?” Complete Essay, Speech for Class 10, Class 12 and Graduation and other classes.

Is India A Soft State?

Accidents of history often become intrinsic to the culture and thinking of a people. India secured its freedom through a process of non-violent confrontation with the British, and this has enormously encouraged a popular psyche that tends to reject the option of the use of force in the resolution of political conflicts – and, indeed, yields a significant resistance to the application of coercive measures even in cases of violent criminal transgression. At the same time, the extended history of the non-cooperation movement has become entrenched in an attitude of general disregard of, or even contempt for, the law. In combination, these proclivities have undermined our capacities, as a nation, to respond adequately and effectively to situations of crisis.

If anything, contemporary political thinking – or perhaps, more accurately, the absence of it – has deeply compounded the difficulties with inchoate and muddle-headed formulations, indeed, sustained obscurantism, clouding judgement on vital moral and strategic issues. Such confusion has historically had-and continues to have a paralyzing effect both on policy and on the operational command of enforcement and security agencies, addressing which has become critical within the context of relentless, utterly unscrupulous and unconstrained movements of terrorism within India.

The military thinker Carl von Clausewitz warns us that, in war, “the mistakes which come from kindness are the very worst. If one side uses force without compunction, undeterred by the bloodshed it involves, while the other side refrains, the first will gain the upper hand”. This is the principle that must be kept in mind while framing an approach to counter-terrorism (we are still far from framing a counter-terrorism policy or strategy). There is, in the Indian discourse, an air of utter bafflement regarding the question of use of force within the context of democracy, with the dominant thinking endorsing the idea that all use of force is somehow a violation of democratic principles, and that the state must negotiate a solution to every emerging problem or conflict. Within this bafflement, the idea of the rule of law—which, and not the electoral process, is the essence of democracy—has been completely sacrificed. Regrettably, those who claim to speak for democracy seem to be unfamiliar with the most fundamental aspects of democratic theory, and particularly with the debates on the role of force in democratic governance. Politically correct rhetoric has left us indifferent to the plight of the victims of criminal and terrorist violence, even while there is a constant harping on the grievances of those who resort to crime and terrorism. In doing this, the dominant discourse, in effect, removes all constraints from those who resort to violent excess, while it places extraordinary and irrational constraints on the agencies of the state that are intended to protect the rule of law.

Response to Terrorism

The Indian response to terrorism—a problem we have confronted continuously at high intensities for at least the past three decades—has been plagued by vacillation, on the one hand, and an alternation between extreme under-reaction and excess, on the other. The nature of terrorism demands quick, indeed, immediate and decisive application of appropriate force; it requires the creation of institutional structures and protocols of response, not only for counter-terrorist action, but for relief and containment of the impact of terrorist acts; above and before all, however, it demands a measure of clarity and an understanding of the nature and necessity of use of force, a realisation that the use of weak and ineffective force compounds and escalates violence, and that continuous emphasis on political and negotiated solution actively privileges violence and terror at the cost of the interests of the law abiding citizen, and of the nation.

Thus, when we argue that ‘these are our brothers and sisters’, and ‘these are our children’, we ignore the fact that those whom they kill are also ‘our brothers and sisters’ and ‘our children’; and that it is the prior, inescapable and constitutional duty of the state to protect the latter, and to impose the laws of the land, before unrealistic considerations of a universal pacifism destroy the possibility of such protection. Counter-terrorist policy and response are an awful responsibility of the state, and must anchor themselves in a practical wisdom, “without conceding too much either to pity or to indulgence.”

Indian politicians are fond of berating Pakistan for aiding, abetting and arming jihadis. There is much substance in their charges, as Pakistan’s ISI is notorious for fomenting terror in the South Asia region. But we can never convince the international community of Islamabad’s role in supporting jihad in the Indian subcontinent. For politicians of our country vie with each other to appease the Muslim community and condone the fundamentalists. A couple of recent instances prove it beyond reasonable doubt. Abdul Nasser Mandani is a key accused in the 1998 Coimbatore serial blasts that targeted Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K. Advani and killed 58 people and left several more injured. He is in a prison in Tamil Nadu. The Congress, the Left and the DMK are falling over each other to please this notorious Islamist. Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan urged his Tamil Nadu counterpart to arrange for a deluxe massage involving 10 masseurs and four senior doctors.

Achuthanandan’s rationale? The poor mass-murderer is “languishing in prison for more than eight years, having lost weight drastically from 104 kg to 54 kg.” What touching solicitude! The second example is that of Afzal, whose role in the attack on Parliament has been proved in court. Our secular leaders and intellectuals are pleading clemency on his behalf—this despite the fact that he has shown no remorse for his brutal act which killed more than half a dozen security persons. The political and intellectual elites have garnered their entire sophistical prowess to conjure up fallacious arguments in defence of Afzal. If the attacker of the Parliament of the world’s largest democracy is shown such deference by leaders and opinion-makers, what seriousness and resoluteness can be expected from them in the war on terror?

Contrast this with Pakistan’s action against terrorists. True, it is under severe pressure from the West, particularly the US; yet, there is action. Recently, Pakistani army helicopters killed around 80 suspected militants in a dawn attack on a madrassa run by a pro-Taliban commander. The commander, Maulana Liaqatullah, who was among those killed, was wanted for harboring al Qaeda fighters. That the attack really hurt the jihadis is evident from the fact that leading fundamentalists have slammed it. Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan’s most influential Islamist party, condemned the attack. Party leader Qazi Hussain Ahmed said the slaying of Liaqatullah and his pupils was “brutal and barbaric,” while a senior minister from the party resigned in protest from the provincial government in North West Frontier Province. Can we imagine such an action against jihadis? The answer is a big ‘no.’ In such a milieu, we should not grumble when the international community ignores our protests against Pakistan.

What Must be Done?

India has to eradicate its ‘soft state’ image both in internal management and in foreign relations. There is a tendency to appease hostile neighbours such as Pakistan and to easily accept pressure from powerful foreign friends such as the USA. India has no feud with the people of Pakistan and there are many close friends on both sides of the tense borders. But the single-minded hostility of the Pakistani military dictatorship and its terrorist war, which has caused thousands of casualties, is a threat that must be met by all means of the state. The Indian public is angry at its government’s uncertain stance. Concerted action is required to eliminate the Pakistani menace once and for all. Since Pakistan does not respect the Simla Agreement and can cross the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir at will by sponsored terrorism and by its military during the Kargil war of 1999, there is no reason for India to respect the LoC and restrain its actions due to Pakistani nuclear weapon blackmail. India’s own nuclear philosophy is politically wise but faulty since it fails to deter Pakistan’s aggressive posture; this has to be made more aggressive and capable of effective and determined use if it is to serve as a deterrent.

A stronger handling of Pakistan will tend to eliminate the terrorist menace and reduce India’s bickering with Bangladesh and Nepal. India is rapidly becoming a powerful state both militarily and economically, but it lacks the ‘guts’ for harsh action against its enemies. The powerful and rich nations of the world spend thousands of millions to keep India in internal turmoil and prevent its rise to great power status in accordance with its potential.

Terrorism has emerged as a pattern of criminal transgression and warfare that has no immediate parallel in either other patterns of crime or of warfare. It allows hostile states to engage in continuous acts of war against India, even while they remain involved in a wide range of trade relations and ‘peace processes’, denying the country the option of condign response. Terrorism demands, and must consequently be accorded a special status in policy, law and warfare if democratic nations are to learn to protect themselves against a affliction that has the potential to enormously escalate in the foreseeable, if not immediate, future, with terrorists securing access to increasingly lethal technologies, potentially including chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

Through history, nations have had to maintain and often refresh their independence through the force of arms. The South Asian region has become an extraordinary locus of instability, with each of India’s neighbours skirting state failure. India is, itself, deeply susceptible to a complex dynamic of  destabilisation that has already extended areas of disorder and non-governance to large parts of the country, with nothing resembling an adequate set of responses in evidence. The use of force in the defence of freedom, and of its laws and institutions, is not just a moral necessity, it is a survival imperative. It is a demand that must be fulfilled, moreover, not with jingoism and hyper-nationalism, or with emerging patterns of communal polarisation and coercion, but rather with a strong and sustained reliance on rationality, on a detailed understanding of the challenge of terrorism and disorder, and of the imperatives of a democratic, lawful and effective response to the threats to the nation’s freedom and survival.

Despite our sense of civilisational continuity and rising contemporary power, it is useful to remind ourselves that we are a very young and vulnerable nation. Our capacities to survive, to grow and to secure our position among the promised ‘great powers’ of the world will depend on our capacities to root governance in reality and reason, not in the political illusions that manifestly dominate most contemporary perspectives. Constitutionalism, the rule of law, and the imperatives of governance have too long been neglected in India, or have been reduced to slogans and rituals. Unless this trajectory is reversed, our failures will compound themselves to destroy the tremendous gains of Independence, and of the economic revival of the past decade.


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