Hawks, doves and even chickens
During times of impending conflict, it is not uncommon to accuse the ‘hawks’ of fanning the flames of war. Heroism and bravery are all very nice, the complaint goes, but it comes at the cost of avoidable bloodshed. Ironically, during times of impending peace, the hawks end up getting blamed for, well, cowardice. (via India Uncut) As for doves, it is moral courage that allows them to overcome patriotism during war and take great risks for the sake of peace.
Like Martian Men and Venusian Women, neatly labelling people into hawks and doves is a convenient simplification of decidedly more complicated matters. However it is dangerous to formulate foreign policy based on (the vilification of) these stereotypes. It is equally dangerous to advocate foreign policy merely on emotional grounds such as bravery or cowardice. So Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s accusation (more of that in another post) that hawks lack ‘a certain form of courage’ is beside the point. In the final reckoning, it is national interest that matters. Courage and cowardice are two of the options available in its pursuit. Good foreign policy is all about the ability to use hawks, doves, ostriches and chickens appropriately. Good foreign policy is also about not ruling out any options.
The Acorn’s position is that Indian foreign policy has been insufficiently imaginative in its use of various options available. Why? Forget Pakistan. Just look at the region. Civil wars in Nepal and Sri Lanka. Perennial political crises in Bangladesh and the Maldives. A murderous dictatorship in Myanmar. Despite decades of courtship, little geopolitical support for India among the Gulf states. Fears of being ‘encircled’ by China. If India finds itself with influence far short of its potential, it does call for a fundamental re-examination of its foreign policy stance. From the border clashes with Bangladesh to the royal shenanigans of Nepal, a less than emphatic India has been reduced to little more than a helpless bystander while its interests are being challenged ever more brazenly.
In so many of these instances, India’s interests would have been better served if it had not overwhelmingly relied on ostriches and doves. In spite of doves having such a poor record, ironically it is the hawks that are demonised — without ever having been used.