India should wield smart power, says IISS expert

By Manish Chand, IANS

New Delhi : India is in a unique position to wield “smart power” as it emerges as a major global player with the potential to contribute to resolving a whole basket of international issues, including nuclear proliferation, and combating terrorism, says top strategic expert Patrick M. Cronin.

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“The world would like India to play a more active role in global affairs. India can blend a mixture of hard and soft power. India can wield smart power,” said Cronin, director of The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a London-headquartered global think tank that specialises in political-military conflicts.

India’s global rise, coming as it does on the back of a fast growing, liberalising economy and a shift in power from the West to the East, presents unique opportunities for the world, Cronin told IANS in an exclusive interview here.

“The world is looking at India afresh. It’s seen as a major democracy, which is no longer wedded to non-alignment in the conventional sense and the Cold War world,” said Cronin, a former head of the US Agency for International Development.

“India is now a rising global power. That is especially true in the economic sense. It’s also true in the political and cultural sense.”

Cronin, who has authored defining books on contemporary strategic issue like “The United States and Coercive Diplomacy”, “The US-Japan Alliance: Past Present and Future”, and “2015: Power and Progress”, was in India to participate in a foreign policy dialogue between the IISS and the Indian foreign office.

“The rise of India will help the world in several ways. It is in the interests of the world to have India contributing to a whole basket of issues, including nuclear non-proliferation and maritime security,” he said.

Cronin made a strong pitch for India playing a bigger role in the UN Security Council.

“India’s political voice has to be heard more widely. It involves reforms of the UN Security Council. At security level, India ranks very high and can play a major role in UN peacekeeping operations and in combating trans-national crimes, maritime piracy and counter-terrorism,” he said.

“India has a tremendous role to play in the security of the Indian Ocean region,” he added.

Comparing India’s rise with that of China, Cronin stressed that despite China’s continuing spell of economic growth and extensive modernisation of its army and navy, India’s chances of succeeding as a smart power are greater as it is the world’s major democracy with liberal ethos.

Smart power, in the words of US expert Joesph Nye, is the ability to combine the hard power of coercion or payment with the soft power of attraction into a successful strategy.

According to Nye, who coined the expression soft power, the US managed such a combination during the Cold War, but with the US foreign policy relying excessively on hard power, its image and influence had declined in recent years.

Cronin believes the India-US nuclear deal was a recognition of India’s unique place in the shifting strategic architecture of the world.

“The nuclear deal has wide support in the US as it was widely accepted that two large democracies and two large economies will have a lot to do something together.

“There was also a realisation that the existing non-proliferation regime was not sufficient and some way has to be found to accommodate India,” he said.

Asked what can come in the way of India’s rise as the world’s smart power, Cronin said: “There is the downside of being one of the most diverse societies in the world. Besides, India has to resolve its ambivalence about not giving up its earlier role as a spokesperson of the south in exchange for joining the league of big powers.”

(Manish Chand can be contacted at [email protected])