What's best way to effect change?

Whats best way to effect change?
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Highlights

Power is defined as the possession of capabilities, or resources, that can influence outcomes. It can have an important role to play, both in personal or corporate relationships, as well as in international affairs. Power can arise out of authority, wealth or the quality of attraction.

Power is defined as the possession of capabilities, or resources, that can influence outcomes. It can have an important role to play, both in personal or corporate relationships, as well as in international affairs. Power can arise out of authority, wealth or the quality of attraction.

And, in recent times, the concepts of sharp power, smart power, hard power and soft power have come into usage, especially in international relationships.

Authoritarian states, the most striking examples being China and Russia, which have been resorting to sharp power internationally with the objective of limiting free expression, spreading confusion and disturbing the political environment within democracies. They often use censorship, and manipulation, to impact adversely the integrity and standing of independent nations and institutions.

Smart power is easily the most common form of power under use currently. Introduced by Joseph Nye in the 1980s, it is understood as the capacity to persuade others through what one wants, using the ability to co-opt rather than coerce, and shaping the preference of others through appeal and attraction.

Hard power evokes compelled action. It involves the everyday use of carrots and sticks of economic and military might, to make others follow one's will, in the context of relationships between nations. Carrots stand for inducements, such as the direction of trade barriers, offers of alliance or promise of military protection, and sticks represent threats, including the use of coercive diplomacy, military intervention or economic sanctions. It is, in other words, the capacity to coerce others to act in ways in which they would not, otherwise, have acted.

On the other hand, soft power is ability to cope, rather than to coerce. It involves the shaping of the preferences of others, through appeal and attraction. It is non-coercive, and is a powerful instrument of influence, and goodwill, in areas such as culture, politics, trade and foreign policy. Also known as the 'second face of power,' it can be wielded, not merely by countries, but also by many other actors in the international arena, such as non-government organisations, or international institutions.

Clearly soft power is the most effective and acceptable concept in contemporary global politics/relations, as it induces voluntary action. It is enduring, and sustainable, compared to hard power, which is unsuitable to the current global ambience. That is, also because compulsion leads to conflict and voluntariness to consent.

For example, the repressive measures used by Germany, in the First World War, provoked the others while the soft power used in the constitution of the European Union, resulted in Europe remaining peaceful, for close to 70 years.

More and more, 'smart power' is becoming the most favoured instrument of influencing other countries. It means involving, as it does, the strategic use of diplomacy, persuasion, capacity building and the projection of power, and influence, in the most cost-effective manner, while carrying political and social legitimacy. In other words, a combination of military force and diplomacy.

Introduced in the late 1980s, the Global Soft Power Index is a combined range of statistical metrics and panel scores, used to measure the soft power abilities of different countries. In the current year, India has been ranked 29th in that Index.

India, however, possesses enormous potential to improve its ranking. The country is known for its music, dance forms and practices such as Yoga, philosophy. What is more, there are many places in the country which offer affordable, and world class, health care. The wide variety of delicious cuisines the country offers, the popularity of its movies (particularly those produced in Hindi), the strides made by it in the field of science and technology - in particular information technology - have made it an attractive destination for people from all countries. People from everywhere in the world find something to relate to in India, and a level of comfort in the prevailing ambience of distrust, and conflict, in the international arena. These are the strengths that India must harness in the future. No doubt, the approach adopted by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, in recent years, has certainly paved the way for a good beginning in this context.

An important lesson we can draw, from the preceding discussion, is that the best influence one can exert, either as a person, institution or a country, is through 'soft' methods. This applies to the classrooms in schools and colleges, as well as to personal relationships. And, in the present context, when inclusive preferences and gender sensitivity are being given increasing importance, the need to empower women through education of the highest quality is an overriding priority.

History is replete with instances that have shown that, whether in warfare, sports, the fine arts, or academic excellence, women can far outshine their male counterparts. As the legendary Telugu writer Chilakamarthi Narasimham said in his work 'Narakasura Vadha', there is nothing women cannot learn, if taught in an affectionate, and agreeable, manner.

Soft power can be exercised though many people fictional characters and individuals also. Just think of the abundance of goodwill and benign influence garnered by America, on account of the worldwide popularity of characters created by Walt Disney, such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. Even in the remotest corners of countries such as Russia or China, one will hardly find a child who has not been regaled by them.

Another example is amount of goodwill Nehru generated for India, by asking the popular Hindi movie actor Raj Kapoor to accompany him to Russia. The film 'Awara' was at the zenith of popularity, and the title song 'Awarahoon', was on everyone's lips. Kapoor became the darling of the masses in Russia, and Nehru the beneficiary. Nowadays Matinee idols such as Amitabh Bachchan create a positive impression, of India as a country, through their portrayal of a variety of roles in Bollywood movies, which have universal appeal. Film actors are also known to make appearances before the Armed Forces of their countries while the Force are engaged in active duties, to help them relax, and forget their tensions, for at least a couple of hours. Bob Hope, the Hollywood actor, was known for his extremely engaging appearances. Likewise KanganaRaut and Nana Patekar are very popular with Indian Armed Forces.

Stars from the movie field around the world have also been known to help noble causes, such as promoting the collection of funds for the provision relief and habitation to victims of natural calamities, and for governments during times of wars.

(The writer is former Chief

Secretary, Government

of Andhra Pradesh)

(The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer.

The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views

of The Hans India)

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