From Hard Power to Soft Power? Ideas, Interaction, Institutions, and Images in India's South Asia Policy

  • Christian Wagner (Author)

Identifiers (Article)


Concepts of hard and soft power have their origins in the neo-realist and liberal institutional theories of international relations. They can also be regarded as two poles on a continuum of power that imply different foreign policy approaches. Ideally, hard power strategies focus on military intervention, coercive diplomacy, and economic sanctions in order to enforce national interests resulting in confrontational policies vis-à-vis neighbouring countries. In contrast to this soft power strategies emphasise common political values, peaceful means for conflict management, and economic co-operation in order to find common solutions for bilateral problems. Analysing India's South Asia policy with the help of these approaches questions first the often made assumption that India is a regional power. Secondly, they are also helpful in explaining the changes in India's regional policy. The paper argues that India's South Asia policy is characterised by a shift from hard to soft power strategies since the 1990s. With the promotion of economic collaboration instead of political interference the 'malign' hegemon of the 1980s is trying to become a 'benign' hegemon in the 1990s. In order to underline the argument, the paper looks at the ideas, interactions, institutions, and images on the bi- and multilateral level in India's South Asia policy.


India, South Asia, Political Science, International Relations, Foreign Policy